San Diego State forward Aguek Arop (33) drives on Michigan forward Brandon Johns Jr. (23) in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Dec. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The Colorado State Rams knew where to find motivation this past Saturday against the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
It was just a little less than a year ago, after all, that the Rams were soundly beaten by the Gaels, 53-33, in Moraga, Calif.
“A little bit, for sure,” said Rams guard Isaiah Stevens when asked if he used last year’s blowout loss as motivation. “We don’t dwell in the past but we definitely remembered how that game went.”
The rematch this past weekend went a bit differently as the Rams, the top-ranked team in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings, whipped the Gaels 74-58 at Fort Collins, Colo.
Stevens who had just six points on 3-of-13 shooting last December against Saint Mary’s, had 14 points and four assists on Saturday. David Roddy also had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Rams.
“We’re a good passing team, a good cutting team and we have a lot of guys who can make shots,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “We do a great job of taking care of the ball and that all starts with Isaiah.”
The Rams are 9-0 this season after starting 17-4 and finishing 20-8 last season.
“We told our guys they (Saint Mary’s) were a hard team to score on and you can’t get frustrated,” Medved said. “But I also told our guys that we are one of the best offensive teams (averaging 85.3 points a game) in the country. So we’re not going to back down or change what we do.”
The Rams are just one of two undefeated teams in the Mountain West along with No. 4 Wyoming (8-0). The Cowboys won three games last week, beating Fullerton (79-66), Denver (77-64) and McNeese State (79-58). Graham Ike had 35 points against Denver, 17 against Fullerton and 18 against McNeese State.
“They (McNeese State) are a tough team to play because they are so physical and athletic,” said Jeff Linder, who was 14-11 last year in his first season as the Cowboys’ head coach. “So you have to fight through that because the officials can’t call a foul every time down the court. That was good for us because that’s what we’re going to face when we play teams like San Diego State and Fresno State.”
No. 2 Fresno State (7-1) beat San Diego (63-43) and Northridge (61-43) last week. Orlando Robinson had 22 points and nine rebounds against Northridge on Saturday after a 15-point performance against San Diego three days earlier.
“I think the guys are starting to feel like no matter what we run the ball has to go through Orlando’s hands a little more,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said. “When it goes through Orlando’s hands good things usually happen.”
No. 3 San Diego State dropped a 72-58 decision at Michigan on Saturday. Matt Bradley had 22 points for the Aztecs but none of his teammates had more than eight (Keith Dinwiddie). Two of the Aztecs’ victories this year have been over Arizona State and Georgetown while their three losses have been to BYU, USC and Michigan.
“I’ve challenged this team and given us a really difficult schedule,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
The No. 5 Utah State Aggies (6-2) lost to Saint Mary’s 60-58 last Thursday at home in front of 8,888 fans. Justin Bean had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Aggies. Bean scored inside for a 56-53 lead with three minutes to go.
“This was obviously a bitter, bitter loss for us,” said first-year Utah State coach Ryan Odom, who spent the past five years as the head coach at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. “It’s a disappointed locker room but not broken. It’s a very quiet locker room but a locker room that has grit and toughness. This team has a love for each other and a connectivity that is unique. When you have a team like that you can recover from disappointment.”
No. 6 Air Force is now 7-1 and riding a seven-game winning steak. The Falcons beat Army 76-58 last Saturday behind 23 points from A.J. Walker. Freshman (6-foot-5) Ethan Taylor had 15 points, eight assists, and four steals.
No. 7 Nevada (4-4) beat Pepperdine last Tuesday, 79-66, behind 24 points and 10 assists from Grant Sherfield and 21 points (five threes), six rebounds and four assists from Desmond Cambridge. The Wolf Pack, though, is currently going through COVID-19 protocols and had to cancel its games at North Texas last Saturday and this Tuesday at Texas-Arlington. The Pack will not play again until Dec. 15 at Lawlor Events Center against Minnesota-Duluth.
No. 8 Boise State (4-4) got 27 points from Abu Kigab in an 82-80 overtime loss against Saint Louis and 17 points from Kigab and Marcus Shaver in a 63-58 win over Tulsa last week. No. 9 New Mexico (5-3) outscored New Mexico State 101-94 last week on the road at Las Cruces, N.M., behind 31 points from Jaelen House.
“This group grew today,” New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said. “We have not had a lot of experience together and the guys had not played in a rival game on the road before this. The crowd was hostile. The elements were difficult.”
No. 10 UNLV (4-5) dropped a pair of games, 83-64 to SMU and 83-62 to San Francisco, last week. Bryce Hamilton had 12 points against SMU and 23 against San Francisco. The Rebels trailed San Francisco just 47-45 with 13 minutes to play. San Francisco also beat Nevada 73-70 on Nov. 18 and will play Fresno State this Wednesday.
“We fought for 30 minutes but that is not enough,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said.
No. 11 San Jose State (4-3) beat South Dakota (61-52) and North Dakota (76-51) last week. Omari Moore had 31 points in the two games combined while 7-foot center Ibrahima Diallo had six points and 12 rebounds against North Dakota.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Dec. 6:
1. COLORADO STATE (9-0, 0-0). Last week: Colorado State 86, Little Rock 55… Colorado State 74, Saint Mary’s 58. This week: vs. Mississippi State at Dallas (Saturday).
2. FRESNO STATE (7-1, 0-0). Last week: Fresno State 63, San Diego 43… Fresno State 61, Northridge 43. This week: at San Francisco (Wednesday), vs. Irvine (Saturday).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (5-3, 0-0). Last week: San Diego State 72, Long Beach State 47… Michigan 72, San Diego State 58. This week: vs. Fullerton (Wednesday).
4. WYOMING (8-0, 0-0). Last week: Wyoming 79, Fullerton 66… Wyoming 77, Denver 64… Wyoming 79, McNeese State 58. This week: at Arizona (Wednesday), vs. Utah Valley (Saturday).
5. UTAH STATE (6-2, 0-0). Last week: Utah State 93, Carroll College 63… Saint Mary’s 60, Utah State 58. This week: at BYU (Wednesday), vs. New Orleans (Saturday).
6. AIR FORCE (7-1, 0-0). Last week: Air Force 76, Army 58. This week: at Montana (Wednesday).
7. NEVADA (4-4, 0-0). Last week: Nevada 79, Pepperdine 66. This week: No games.
8. BOISE STATE (4-4, 0-0). Last week: Saint Louis 86, Boise State 82 (OT) … Boise State 63, Tulsa 58. This week: at Northridge (Tuesday), vs. Prairie View A&M (Friday).
9. NEW MEXICO (5-3, 0-0). Last week: New Mexico 101, New Mexico State 94. This week: Vs. New Mexico State (Monday), vs. Denver (Thursday), vs. UTEP (Sunday).
10. UNLV (4-5, 0-0): Last week: SMU 83, UNLV 64… San Francisco 83, UNLV 62. This week: vs. Seattle (Wednesday), vs. Hartford (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (4-3, 0-0). Last week: San Jose State 61, South Dakota 52… San Jose State 76, North Dakota 51. This week: at Pepperdine (Monday), vs. Pacific (Saturday).
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