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CSU men’s basketball evens season series in win over Boise State

Isaiah+Stevens+%284%29+looks+for+an+open+pass+to+score+during+the+CSU+vs+Boise+St.+basketball+game+on+Feb.+6.+%28CSU+won+75-62%29
Collegian | Ava Puglisi
Isaiah Stevens (4) looks for an open pass to score during the CSU vs Boise St. basketball game on Feb. 6. (CSU won 75-62)

A true team effort.

Oftentimes, it’s Isaiah Stevens and Nique Clifford who do the majority of the work on offense, but Colorado State’s 75-62 win over Boise State was a drastically different story. 

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Every single player who touched the court for the Rams, with the exception of Kyan Evans, scored a point. 

That’s huge for the Rams who for so long in non-conference play saw games similar to this with the majority of the team contributing, something that certainly was missed in the conference portion of the season. 

While Evans didn’t score, he still played a great game. For the past couple of games, the Rams have bled points when Stevens left the floor. 

Not always to the fault of Evans, but it does happen when he’s on the floor. However, Tuesday night was a completely different story. One that saw the CSU bench dominate, outscoring the Bronco’s bench 23-8. 

“I thought our bench was really good,” coach Niko Medved said. “I thought our bench came in and was really productive and brought something to the table and just (a) really good performance by the Rams.”

Scoring seemed easy to come by for the Rams, and not so easy to come by for the Broncos, well except for Tyson Degenhart

Degenhart is one of the best players in the Mountain West and showed it tonight. He scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, with the rest of the team only shooting 13-of-42, something that didn’t happen when Boise State beat the Rams at their place. 

“You don’t really want anyone to go for 25, so it’s kind of tough,” CSU forward Joel Scott said. “It being my match up, it’s kind of a rough one. But at the end of the day we played a good team-defensive game and no one else really got going on their team which is a huge part, even when he was going. Being able to hold everyone else to that low of a game is big time for us.”

A big part of that bench was Rashaan Mbemba, who had to play in some crucial minutes as Patrick Cartier dealt with some foul trouble. 

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Mbemba didn’t necessarily fill up the box score, but was active and played good defense. His eight points in just 13 minutes put him at a plus-minus of +13, tied for second best on the team with Scott. 

“He cares so much,” Medved said. “He’s playing so hard and physical, he really understands angles in the post. I thought he did a terrific job.”

Mbemba’s play really exemplified how the rest of the team played, especially since the 3s weren’t falling for the Rams. 

CSU shot just 4-of-15 from downtown, something that in the past has typically led to rough offensive performances. However, their willingness to absorb contact and get to the rim, more than picked up the lack of outside scoring. 

“I thought our guys on offense played with poise,” Medved said. “You look at it tonight, we only made four 3s, but I think we shot 70% from two. I thought we did a great job cutting off the ball, attacking and being stubborn, getting ourselves to the line and we knocked down free throws tonight.”

The Rams shot eerily similar when they played the Broncos the first time around, shooting 4-of-16 from deep at ExtraMile arena. 

But, things never crumble the same way twice, which goes to show just how big of an advantage it can be to play at home, making those second-time-around games just that much more of a chess match.

“They’re super tactical,” Stevens said. “It’s minor adjustments here and there. I know for us and for them, maybe just one guy being in a different spot on the same exact action makes all the difference. So it’s the minor things like that and understanding who was supposed to be aware of who’s supposed to be helping with what. And it makes it tough on the defensive end for sure.”

Minor things certainly make a difference, but sometimes its those big plays that seal the game. 

In the second half, CSU found themselves scoreless for nearly three minutes as BSU went on an 8-2 run, getting to within six points of the Rams. That was until Joe Palmer got a timely steal and went coast-to-coast for an and-1 lay up, which propelled the Rams to their own 7-0 run, putting them squarely in the driver’s seat. 

“I just think he plays hard and cares,” Medved said. “He battles every second that he’s out there and he plays hard and when you play hard and you compete like crazy and you never give up you can find yourself in a lot of right spots.”

A key part of the Rams win and something they also did against San Diego State was get out to a quick lead. 

Starting fast like that gives them room to cushion the blow when the opposing team makes runs of their own. Something that if the Rams can keep up, will lead to putting up more numbers in the win column. 

“I think being able to keep them at arms length gives us a little space to work with,” Scott said. “But at the same time we knew that they’re going to have a punch at some point.”

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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