FORT COLLINS –– The Colorado State men’s basketball team lost plenty of valuable practice time amid its recent pause in operations, and it showed on Saturday afternoon.
Specifically, positive COVID-19 cases within the roster forced the squad to cease activity from Nov. 17 through Dec. 8 before returning a few days ahead of Saturday’s delayed season-opener against Division II CSU-Pueblo.
Fittingly, though the Rams concluded the action on the winning side of an 89-77 final, CSU’s accumulation of rust was certainly apparent upon allowing the ThunderWolves to hang around from start to finish at an empty Moby Arena.
Nevertheless, after suffering three cancellations before commencing the campaign, Medved’s group was simply thrilled to finally hit the hardwood this weekend while grinding out a win.
“We went almost three weeks without doing anything and then to come back for a couple of days and then get out here and play, that’s really difficult to do,” Medved said. “You could see very quickly the fatigue set in. We were a step slow for a little while on both ends of the floor, but we worked our way through it. I thought this was exactly what this team needed.”
Despite a few stagnant stages of the contest, the Rams held their own on offense for the most part while shooting 51.7% from the floor.
The ThunderWolves’ ability to maintain striking distance –– and build a lead as large as five points in the first half –– pertained to CSU’s oft-sluggish defending.
Led by Tre Brown’s game-high 28 points, CSU-Pueblo capitalized on a plethora of open 3-point looks as the visitors posted a respectable 11-for-29 mark from deep at Moby. The ThunderWolves hoarded 11 offensive rebounds as well, tallying 15 second-chance points.
“You have to give them credit,” Medved said. “They made some tough shots. I know they made 3s, but I’m more concerned about the second-chance points. That was an issue here and something we have to clean up.”
The now 1-0 Rams don’t walk away from the outing with much to write home about defensively.
However, Medved has to feel pleased with forward David Roddy’s compelling sophomore debut.
While guiding the Rams offensively, the Minnesota product seamlessly asserted his dominance in the paint on his way to a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double.
“I think it was just the rhythm of the game,” Roddy said. “Just understanding where I could score and then taking advantage of it.”
Fellow sophomore Isaiah Stevens, the Mountain West’s reigning freshman of the year, constructed an encouraging outing as well. Overall, Stevens dropped 18 points off a 7-for-13 shooting clip along with a team-most six assists.
Defensively, the second-year guard noticeably increased his vocal presence down the stretch after the Rams entered the locker room for halftime, shockingly facing a 42-40 deficit.
“As a point guard, it’s my job to lead, and I’m going to continue to do that so guys can follow suit,” he said. “Once we get everybody talking at that same level, we’ll be really special.”
Considering the significant amount of lost preparation beforehand, CSU owns a valid excuse for the relatively subpar outing.
Regardless, the Rams aren’t taking any mistakes lightly upon shifting gears from a victory they surely could have seized more comfortably. And they’ll shortly obtain an opportunity to display improvements when hosting Northern Arizona at Moby Arena on Monday evening.
“We hold ourselves to a really high expectation and standard here,” Stevens said. “So we don’t give ourselves any leeway. Everything that we can improve on from this game, we’re definitely going to correct it tomorrow and moving forward. I don’t think we’re gonna live with any excuses.”
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