SAN DIEGO –– The Colorado State men’s basketball team didn’t look like a red-hot squad fresh off two consecutive blowout, Mountain West Conference-opening victories on Saturday.
In fact, coach Niko Medved’s group looked dead in the water out of the gate upon falling behind by 26 points in the first half when facing San Diego State at Viejas Arena.
Nevertheless, while battling the conference’s juggernaut in a nationally televised game, the Rams found a way to put on a show via constructing an improbable comeback over the Aztecs.
Beginning with a dominant run late in the first half, CSU progressively chipped away en route to claiming a 70-67 victory in the closing seconds –– representing the largest come-from-behind win in MW history.
“It just really shows you who they are,” Medved said. “Now everybody can see why I love this team so much. This group of guys never quits. It would have been easy for us to say, hey, it wasn’t our day. Let’s just get out of here and find a way to win Monday. But man, incredible.”
After closing the opening half trailing 50-43 amid a 21-2 flurry, Medved’s inspired bunch managed to translate their newfound success seamlessly into the closing segment.
With the Aztecs (No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll) on the ropes, CSU eventually trimmed its deficit to a mere one point at the 12 minute, 24 second mark of the second half. However, while both offenses cooled off, SDSU made the most of its frequent trips to the free throw line down the stretch as it appeared Brian Dutcher’s team was on its way to sneaking away victoriously.
Not to worry. That’s when sophomore John Tonje made his presence known as the guard assertively stole teammate Isaiah Stevens’ typical late-game thunder to guide the Rams against the odds.
“John works his tail off day in and day out,” sophomore David Roddy said. “He’s a special player. If he raises up, I have a lot of confidence in it going in.”
Trailing 67-62, Tonje raced across the court to convert a quick layup with 47 seconds remaining following an SDSU free throw miss. CSU then assembled the crucial defensive stop it needed –– giving the Rams a final opportunity down three in the closing moments.
And, of course, it was Tonje who knocked down a heavily contested 3-pointer from the corner in front of CSU’s bench with 12 seconds left. He also drew a foul, which he took advantage of by sinking Saturday’s game-winning free throw.
“Isaiah is known for being the cardiac, the big-shot maker for us.” Tonje said. “For him to pass that up for me and believe in my shot was big time. It felt great. Just being a kid in the gym, you always practice those shots before you leave. You wind down three, two, one and shoot up those type of shots. For it to happen today felt great.”
Who needs practice?
The guard missed yesterday’s training session while attending his father’s wedding in Denver before landing in San Diego around 11 p.m. on Friday.
Who needs sleep? Apparently, Tonje doesn’t require that either.
“I called him the night before the wedding and said you know what, John, you’re gonna be fine,” Medved said. “Enjoy this wedding. It’s important that you’re there. That’s where you need to be. You’re gonna come here tomorrow ready to play. For him to knock that tough layup there, knock down that shot and hit the free throw, it’s just incredible.”
Though Tonje constituted CSU’s crunch time hero, the youthful roster’s collaborative efforts amounted to Saturday’s monumental turnaround.
The Rams’ junior tandem of Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore played vital roles in igniting the comeback –– and maintaining the pressure over the rest of the action.
The veterans sparked a once-discombobulated offense by authoritatively finding their strokes from deep during the first-half comeback. Overall, Thistlewood –– who spent about half an hour in the gym working on his 3-point stroke following Wednesday’s victory –– converted 4-of-7 3-point shots. Moore, meanwhile, nailed 3 of 5 3s.
“Those guys are leaders. They’re the ones that have been through the wars,” Medved said. “This is their third year. They’ve been in these games. They knew they had to play today, and they’re terrific shooters. If you’re gonna leave those guys open, they’re gonna make shots. Once we started creating some good shots, getting in the paint and getting them in rotation, they knocked those down. Sometimes it just takes a couple. We got going there.”
Roddy’s continued efficacy proved pivotal as well, despite operating through a substantial chunk of the contest with three fouls. In fact, he impressively managed to keep his productive physicality intact down the stretch. Before sealing the win by stealing SDSU’s final inbound near mid-court, Roddy scored 15 points off a 7-of-11 clip from the floor and hoarded a team-most 12 boards –– the forward’s third consecutive double-double.
“He’s the most versatile guy I’ve ever coached,” Medved said. “He can initiate offense, he can play center. And it was cool; after the game, David came up and gave me a hug and was like, hey coach, this is what we came here to do. I love him having that vision for the program, really knowing what this moment was and seizing it.”
CSU may have lost its five-game streak of holding opponents under 60 points. Still, the Rams defense noticeably improved as the game progressed. And more importantly, Medved’s squad boosted its league record to a perfect 3-0 and its overall mark to 6-1.
They’ll celebrate the memorable outing tonight. Although, the Rams won’t do so for long as they’ll wrap up their regular-season series against the Aztecs on Monday at 7 p.m. MT.
Plucking the formidable hosts twice in a row likely won’t be easy. Regardless, similar to Saturday, the resilient Rams don’t intend on losing any faith no matter the opponent nor the score.
If we’ve learned anything thus far during the young 2020-21 campaign, it’s that Medved’s guys consistently come to battle.
“We know they’re gonna come out spitting nails,” Medved said. “But our job is to come back and try to win a ball game on Monday. We’ll be ready to play. But we need to enjoy this. This was big for our program. To have this national TV slot and to have our team put in this position on short notice and to come out here and do what we did is awesome. It’s a great day to be a Ram.”
- CSU men's basketball Mountain West schedule has Rams playing San Diego State once
- Daily Business Report-May 30, 2018, San Diego Metro Magazine
- Daily Business Report-June 7, 2018, San Diego Metro Magazine
- Daily Business Report-June 6, 2018, San Diego Metro Magazine
- Colorado State University's subsidy of athletics among highest in Mountain West
- Ranking the Mountain West's athletic programs: Who's the best?
- David Ramsey: Mountain West football on the rise, despite probable loss of Las Vegas Bowl
- 7 years after conception, Colorado State’s football stadium finally has a name
- Boise State's Hutchison receives long-awaited invitation
- New Colorado State basketball coach Niko Medved: 'Challenges are what I live for'
- Opinion: Colorado State University football won't contend for MW title unless new stars emerge
- Colorado State University's football stadium now has a name
- California’s largest lake is dying, leaving toxic dust behind
- Former Fresno State AD says President Castro's 'whisper campaign' forced his resignation
- Northwestern State leads All-Louisiana college baseball team
- Ferrell: Northwestern State extends its stay in Corvallis
- San Diegans Spoke Decisively With DA Vote
- Newsom Coasts To Victory In Primary, Will Face Cox In November
- Radical plan to split California into three states earns spot on November ballot
- San Francisco subpoenas Uber, Lyft on driver pay
CSU seizes largest comeback victory in Mountain West history at San Diego State have 1314 words, post on www.denverpost.com at January 2, 2021. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.