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Colorado State’s incredible season ends on biggest stage against Texas

Colorado+State+University+forward+Nique+Clifford+%2810%29+finishes+over+three+University+of+Texas+defenders.+CSU+lost+to+Texas+56-44+in+the+first+round+of+the+NCAA+tournament+on+March+21+in+Charlotte%2C+North+Carolina.
Collegian | Damon Cook
Colorado State University forward Nique Clifford (10) finishes over three University of Texas defenders. CSU lost to Texas 56-44 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Stalwart effort, but no dice.

Eleven points in 20 minutes. That’s what the first half looked like for No. 10 Colorado State men’s basketball in their 56-44 defeat against No. 7 Texas

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CSU came into the game having played five games in eight days, Texas hadn’t played a game in over a week. That was the difference in the heartbreaking loss. After a phenomenal season, the Rams just couldn’t get anything to fall. 

Between shooting 18.5%, turning the ball over 11 times and only hitting one 3-pointer, the Rams carriage turned into a pumpkin before the clock even struck halftime. 

While the Rams did find life in the second half, their efforts started just a tad too late. 

“I know we are all disappointed,” coach Niko Medved said. “We don’t feel like we brought our best tonight, obviously the 19 turnovers was uncharacteristic for us. I thought we fought like crazy defensively, I thought we were really really good, we cut our turnovers down — I mean this team was probably struggling to get to 50 against us and so we battled like crazy.”

Isaiah Stevens had a less-than-ideal end to his storied career with CSU, finishing with only 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. 

But after all, only about 10% of all Division I basketball teams receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament and CSU certainly had their fair share of special moments this season. The comeback against Air Force, Rams climbing up to No. 13 in the AP Poll — their highest ranking ever —and Stevens breaking the 2,000 point threshold, something no one else that has suited up for CSU men’s basketball has done. The Ramily has been strong since day one.

“When I got here in June, it was a family right away,” Joel Scott said. “It was one of the tightest groups and within a week, two weeks, we were all already really close, (the) chemistry was really great and it’s just grown even more since then.”

No. 4 has been poetry in motion for five years and there will never be a player like him to step foot in Moby Arena ever again. 

Stevens will likely go down as the only player ever to be named to an All-Mountain West team five times. For as special as he’s been to CSU, CSU has been just as special to him.

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“It meant the world being able to put on a CSU uniform again (and) go out here on this stage with my brothers,” Stevens said. “But we came out short, but being able to do something that doesn’t happen too often in CSU history never gets old.”

This season has been a one of a kind season and should be cherished.

Next season will look drastically different. For one Stevens, Patrick Cartier, Josiah Strong, Joel Scott and Joe Palmer will be gone. There will likely be transfers out and transfers in, ushering in a new era of CSU basketball. 

“Being able to be out here to put on that CSU jersey means a lot,” Scott said.  “And this is a dream as a kid being able to play in one of the greatest tournaments in the world. I mean, what else can you ask for? And it definitely hurts right now, but man I’m thankful, blessed and just going to roll with it for now.”

While a new era is guaranteed, the culture that Medved and company have been able to create will remain. Former CSU players have so often remained in touch with the program and that and more is expected from the players who move on.

While the last three years have been magical, CSU basketball feels like it’s just getting started.

“The fact that we’ve been able to go (to the NCAA tournament) two times in the last three years, I think really speaks volumes to the culture here and the culture that (Medved’s) built,” Stevens said. “And also just the players that worked their tails off each and every day to go out there and continue to raise the standard.”

This group of guys played 36 games for the name on the front of their jersey, not for the one on the back. 

So for now, while it’s a tearful see you later, it’s far from a goodbye.

“When you’re trying to build a program, I always tell people ‘I want guys to come in our program and feel like their experience in our program changed their life,'” Medved said. “And they look at it as one of the best things that they’ve been a part of and that they’re proud to play in our program and proud to do that at Colorado State.”

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

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook
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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