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Looking back at best moments from CSU men’s basketball season

Colorado+State+University+guard+Isaiah+Stevens+dribbles+the+ball+at+the+top+of+the+arc+against+The+University+of+Texas+at+Austin+in+the+NCAA+tournament+March+21.+CSU+lost+56-44.
Collegian | Damon Cook
Colorado State University guard Isaiah Stevens dribbles the ball at the top of the arc against The University of Texas at Austin in the NCAA tournament March 21. CSU lost 56-44.

All good things come to an end.

Unfortunately for Colorado State men’s basketball, that end came against Texas in the NCAA tournament. Along with the end of the season, the loss marked the end of the storied career of Isaiah Stevens in green and gold. 

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While Stevens will be missed dearly by fans and teammates alike, it’s never too early to take a look back at his final season in Fort Collins. 

The Wright State game

While the Rams didn’t start with a gauntlet, their win over Wright State showcased the team-first mentality CSU had all season.

Transfers Joel Scott and Nique Clifford burst onto the scene, and it became clear by only game two that they would fit in immediately. Clifford showcased his two-way abilities, and Scott proved to the world that he could dominate at the Division I level. 

Not only did the Rams break the program record with 37 assists as a team, but Stevens recorded 14 assists, breaking his own previous record of 13.

The Hall of Fame Classic 

The victory over Boston College was almost expected with how well the Rams started off their season. However, the victory over Creighton was far from expected. The Rams went in to Kansas City, Missouri, and beat the No. 8 seeded Blue Jays by 21 points.

The Rams had to go without Patrick Cartier, who injured his back in the first minute of the game, but when given his opportunity, Rashaan Mbemba showed just how dominant he could be, stepping in and scoring his career-high 13 points.

After that victory, it became abundantly clear that CSU was not only a contender to win the Mountain West, but they were also a contender to go dancing. 

Beating Colorado

Sometimes the stories just write themselves.

Clifford got the better of his former team in the reunion, Jalen Lake had 16 off the bench despite having a broken finger and the Rams’ win cemented them as one of the best teams in the nation, catapulting them up the AP Top 25.

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Scott himself had his own storyline, claiming bragging rights over his brother, who used to play at Colorado. While Scott couldn’t get his brother in any CSU gear, he did have to post a “Go Rams” on social media.

Climbing to the program’s highest ranking in history

Shortly after the Rams beat Colorado, they traveled to Las Vegas and beat Washington, making CSU climb up to No. 13 in the AP Top 25

Behind the greatest player to ever grace the floor for CSU and the players who fit perfectly alongside him, CSU swept the nation off its feet. 

For a team that had gone 15-18 in its previous season, the type of turnaround they had in nonconference games seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the season.

Stevens cements himself as GOAT

Not that there were really any doubters prior to the LMU game, but in their nine-point win, Stevens slammed the door shut on any arguments that he wasn’t the greatest.

Surpassing Pat Durham as CSU’s all-time leading scorer on top of already being the all-time assist leader truly shed light on how special of an offensive talent Stevens is.

Stevens became the only player in men’s basketball history to score 2,000 points just two games later.

After being pulled against Adams State University with 1,999 points, Stevens finally surpassed the 2,000 mark at the start of conference play with a win over New Mexico

Rams complete improbable comeback against Air Force 

Moby magic. 

With the game seemingly out of hand and waiting on a miracle, the Rams trapped Air Force in the backcourt and forced a turnover, which led to a Stevens-to-Clifford fast-break dunk. 

The game seemed out of hand for CSU with AFA hitting every shot, but the miracle comeback capped off by a dominant overtime performance cemented this game as one of the special moments of the season. 

The kickball game

After a heartbreaking loss against Wyoming, the Rams came home and beat the NCAA champion runner-up San Diego State.

After a dominant performance by Scott, Clifford and Stevens, the Rams’ locker room that seemed like they had hit rock bottom proved just how good their chemistry and togetherness are in the face of adversity.

Coach Niko Medved gave the team two options after the Wyoming loss: either to come together and bounce back or to splinter. The Rams chose the obvious, and with it came one of the best storylines of the season.

The team played a simple game of kickball, allowing it to take their minds off the gut-wrenching loss and help them move forward and prove why they were among the teams on top of the Mountain West with their win over SDSU.

Going back to the NCAA tournament

Something fans haven’t been accustomed to pre-Medved has been making it to the NCAA tournament, only doing so three times between 2000 and 2018, when Medved was hired.

Since then, CSU has made two, including winning against Virginia for the first tournament win for the program since 2013. Although it had to end, the Rams had a season to remember and sent off Stevens — and all of the other seniors — on the biggest stage in college basketball.

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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