Colorado State guard Isaiah Rivera (23) is congratulated by guard David Roddy after being fouled against Utah State on Feb. 26, 2022, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)
The Colorado State Rams just might have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with victories over Wyoming and Utah State last week.
“Man, I won’t believe it until I see it,” Colorado State’s senior David Roddy said after a 66-55 win at Utah State on Saturday left the Rams at 23-4 overall and 13-4 in the Mountain West.
The Rams, No. 2 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings, still have one regular season game (Saturday at home against Boise State) and the Mountain West tournament next week in Las Vegas before the NCAA Tournament field is announced.
Colorado State has never won a Mountain West regular season title and has won just one Mountain West tournament (2003) and has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2013.
“It’s been a blessing to change the culture around,” said Roddy, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Utah State and 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 61-55 win over Wyoming last week. “I’m just super proud of how far we’ve come and super excited about the future.”
The Rams also got 23 points and five 3-pointers by Kendle Moore in the win at Utah State.
“Moore was a difference-maker,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said. “His threes were huge.”
“How about Kendle Moore?” said Colorado State coach Niko Medved. “We knew we needed somebody else to step up here and man, he did that in a big-time way.”
Medved, though, said the Rams didn’t beat both Wyoming and Utah State with offense.
“The last two games we really won with our defense,” Medved said. “When you get to this point in the season it’s harder to score. Everybody knows what everybody does and they try to take you out of what you do. Every possession is tough.”
No. 7 Utah State felt its loss to Colorado State came down to free throw shooting. The Aggies were 9-of-10 from the line in an 81-56 win over New Mexico on Tuesday but struggled against Colorado State on Saturday.
“It was a rough night for us pretty much all around,“ Odom said. “We missed some things at the free throw line we’d like to have back. You can’t go 6-for-18 from the free throw line and expect to beat a good team. It’s as simple as that.”
No. 1 Boise State survived No. 3 San Diego State (58-57) and beat No. 5 UNLV (86-76) last week to improve to 23-6, 14-2. The Broncos are also in the running for an at-large NCAA tournament spot with two Mountain West games (Tuesday at home against Nevada and Saturday at Colorado State) and the league tournament remaining. Boise State, though, needed two free throws by Abu Kigab to beat San Diego State.
“Abu said he knew he was going to make them,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “He’s the greatest.”
“When you are in those moments, you are just locked in,” said Kigab, who had 21 points on 9-of-11 free throw shooting against San Diego State. “I think, for me, it’s just focusing on my breath. I knew I was going to make those shots.”
The Broncos also got a 3-pointer from Emmanuel Akot with 35 seconds left for a 56-55 lead after Akot missed his first six shots from the floor.
“Great players and great teams aren’t absent of mistakes and they are not absent of bad nights,” Rice said. “But they have to have the perfect response and that’s what he (Akot) did.”
The Broncos also benefited from two missed free throws by San Diego State’s Matt Bradley with seven seconds left.
“I didn’t expect him to miss both free throws,” Kigab said. “That was a blessing for us.”
No. 4 Wyoming responded to its 61-55 loss at Colorado State last Wednesday with a 74-61 win over Nevada at home on Saturday.
Graham Ike had just eight points at Colorado State but poured in 23 with 15 rebounds against Nevada.
No. 8 Nevada (12-15, 6-10) also fell to UNLV at home on Tuesday, 62-54, last week and has now lost 10 of its last 15 games.
“I thought we were very immature for about 10 minutes in the second half,” said Nevada coach Steve Alford after the loss to UNLV at home. “We’ve got guys who get into their feelings after they miss a shot or two. You just have to grow, you have to mature. We’ve just got to get tougher.”
Nevada now has to get tougher against arguably the two toughest teams physically in the Mountain West, Tuesday at Boise State and Saturday at home against San Diego State.
UNLV (17-12, 9-7) finished its week with an 86-76 loss to Boise State on Saturday. Bryce Hamilton had 25 points against Boise State and 27 against Nevada and continues to lead the conference in scoring (21.8 points a game).
No. 6 Fresno State (17-10, 7-7) played just one game last week, an easy 65-40 win over Air Force at home on Tuesday, and will wrap up its regular season this week with three games: Monday at home against New Mexico and on the road Thursday at San Diego State and Saturday at Wyoming.
The Mountain West regular season concludes this week with 11 games. All teams will play 18 league games this season except San Diego State, Fresno State, New Mexico and Air Force, who will all play 17. The San Diego State at New Mexico (Jan. 15) and Air Force at Fresno State (Jan. 1) games were postponed and will not be played.
Every team qualifies for the Mountain West tournament. The Wolf Pack will open its tournament on March 9 and will have to win four games in four days to win the tournament and go to the NCAA tournament.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Feb. 28:
1. BOISE STATE (23-6, 14-2). Last week: Boise State 58, San Diego State 57 ... Boise State 86, UNLV 76. This week: Nevada at Boise State (Tuesday), Boise State at Colorado State (Saturday).
2. COLORADO STATE (23-4, 13-4). Last week: Colorado State 61, Wyoming 55 ... Colorado State 66, Utah State 55. This week: Boise State at Colorado State (Saturday).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (18-7, 10-4). Last week: Boise State 58, San Diego State 57 ... San Diego State 77, San Jose State 52. This week: San Diego State at Wyoming (Monday), Fresno State at San Diego State (Thursday), San Diego State at Nevada (Saturday).
4. WYOMING (23-5, 12-3). Last week: Colorado State 61, Wyoming 55 ... Wyoming 74, Nevada 61. This week: San Diego State at Wyoming (Monday), Wyoming at UNLV (Wednesday), Fresno State at Wyoming (Saturday).
5. UNLV (17-12, 9-7). Last week: UNLV 62, Nevada 54 ... Boise State 86, UNLV 76. This week: Wyoming at UNLV (Wednesday), UNLV at New Mexico (Saturday).
6. FRESNO STATE (17-10, 7-7). Last week: Fresno State 65, Air Force 40. This week: New Mexico at Fresno State (Monday), Fresno State at San Diego State (Thursday), Fresno State at Wyoming (Saturday).
7. UTAH STATE (16-14, 7-10). Last week: Utah State 81, New Mexico 56 ... Colorado State 66, Utah State 55. This week: Utah State at San Jose State (Friday).
8. NEVADA (12-15, 6-10). Last week: UNLV 62, Nevada 54 ... Wyoming 74, Nevada 61. This week: Nevada at Boise State (Tuesday), San Diego State at Nevada (Saturday).
9. NEW MEXICO (12-17, 4-11). Last week: Utah State 81, New Mexico 56 ... New Mexico 69, Air Force 65. This week: New Mexico at Fresno State (Monday), UNLV at New Mexico (Saturday).
10. AIR FORCE (10-17, 3-13). Last week: Fresno State 65, Air Force 40 ... New Mexico 69, Air Force 65. This week: San Jose State at Air Force (Tuesday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (8-20, 1-15). Last week: San Diego State 77, San Jose State 52. This week: San Jose State at Air Force (Tuesday), Utah State at San Jose State (Friday).
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