3 thoughts: Colorado State basketball holds on in Laramie for sweep of Wyoming – Coloradoan

Colorado State basketball guard Kendle Moore drives during a game at Wyoming on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021.

LARAMIE, Wyo. — All the good, a lot of the bad and the result fans are getting used to seeing.

The Colorado State men’s basketball team showed up in all of its glory and finished with plenty of its flaws on Saturday. But the Rams did the most important thing. They won.

CSU escaped Laramie with a 68-59 win and a much-needed two-game sweep over Wyoming.

An 18-point lead for the Rams disappeared down to one but CSU scored the final eight points to secure the win.

Here are three thoughts on the Rams’ critical road win.

The good from CSU

The Rams (14-4, 11-3 Mountain West) were about as good as they can be for roughly the first 16 minutes of the game.

CSU’s defensive intensity was impressive to watch and overwhelming for Wyoming (10-9, 4-8 MW) to try and handle.

The Rams’ second unit — with John Tonje, Isaiah Rivera, P.J. Byrd and Dischon Thomas joining Isaiah Stevens on the floor — took a good beginning from the starters and cranked the intensity up several notches.

That unit caused a series of quick turnovers, several leading to fastbreak points, and CSU had a 12-0 and extended 17-2 run in the middle of the first half.

The lead had ballooned to 37-19 with less than four minutes left in the first half, and that big advantage proved a vital cushion as the offense lost its way.

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The bad from CSU

The Rams allowed Wyoming to cut the lead down to 10 at halftime. Even though it was a double-digit lead, it felt like all momentum was riding with Wyoming given the loud 2,000-person crowd at Arena-Auditorium.

It carried into the second half as CSU’s offense was all of a sudden completely unable to score.

Luckily, the Rams were still defending with force, even as Wyoming slowly cut down the lead.

An Adam Thistlewood jumper made it 55-48 CSU with 8:57 left.

It would be inside the final minute of the game before CSU made another shot from the field.

The saving grace for the Rams was on defense and at the free throw line. CSU did keep attacking on offense. The ball wouldn’t go in, but CSU shot 20 second-half free throws and hit 15 of them.

Despite going more than 8 minutes without a field goal, the Rams maintained the lead. Wyoming cut it as close as one (60-59) but could never tie or take the lead.

Finally, David Roddy scored a layup with 43 seconds left as Graham Ike flopped to try and foul Roddy out with his fifth. That put CSU up five and the Rams made another stop right after to seal it.

“It’s a ‘no quit’ mindset and a ‘right now means everything mindset,'” Roddy said. “Each minute on the court, each minute in our lives, is a battle. We have to focus in each minute and just keep grinding.”

The Rams scored just seven second-half field goals (7-16) after shooting 55% in the first half. CSU turned it over 10 times in the second half.

The defense is the winner, though. Wyoming lives and dies with the 3-pointer and hit just six of 26 attempts (23%) from deep.

“It was being able to dig down defensively and stay disciplined and understanding what their tendencies are,” guard Isaiah Stevens said. “It was making them play to weaknesses and not strengths…We kind of dictated a little bit more what we were going to allow them to do.”

Roddy had 15 points and 11 rebounds for CSU. Stevens had 14 points, but four turnovers and no assists as his mini funk continued. Tonje scored 10.

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Hard-nosed wins

The Rams have seven road wins (7-3), their most since the 2016-17 season. Included in that are two wins in front of (mostly) hostile fans at Wyoming, one in front of fans at Utah State and another from 26 points down at San Diego State.

Toughness travels.

The two victories this week in Laramie weren’t the prettiest games ever for CSU, but the job got done.

“I think I knew as a coach and our staff when we looked at this were like ‘man, this (series) is going to be really hard,'” CSU coach Niko Medved said. “I’m just really proud of the guys…I thought the guys just showed a lot of mental toughness and poise.”

The Rams entered Saturday No. 45 in NET rankings with Wyoming No. 188. A loss in either game would have erased any margin of error in CSU’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Instead, the Rams held serve yet again this season.

Despite reports suggesting New Mexico might end its season, the plan right now is for the Lobos (5-11, 1-11 MW) to be in Fort Collins for games Tuesday (9 p.m., FS1) and Thursday (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Those are two more games where the Rams must take care of business and win.

Follow Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle. Coloradoan sports can also be followed on Twitter. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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