Final Scores: Game-one USU 83, CSU 64 | Game-two CSU 84, USU 76
Colorado State splits road series with Utah State Thursday after double-digit loss on Tuesday.
Colorado State answers double-digit loss Tuesday night with bounce back win on Thursday.
Logan, UT-Game-two at the Dee was an absolute battle between two of the conference’s best teams. Colorado State looked to at least split the road series on Thursday night after an embarrassing double-digit loss to the Aggies on Tuesday night and knock Utah State out of a two-way tie with Boise State in the process.
WHAT A WIN!!! We earn the split and hand Utah State its first loss of the season! Enjoy it tonight and then move on to Boise State (the new MW leader) next week!#TeamTogether pic.twitter.com/kC0snyoKvs
— Colorado State Men’s Basketball (@CSUMBasketball) January 22, 2021
Fans and media around the conference stayed up late for a Mountain West showdown between two title contenders.
As a discussion of who is the best team in the conference, appeared to have more ammunition after Tuesday’s double-digit win. But then still a bit unclear given Thursdays eight-point loss.
Utah State came into this game in a two-way tie atop the conference with Boise State. Both 9-0 in conference play but with slightly different opponents played up to that point. Both teams had played against squads from the bottom half of the conference standings in Air Force, New Mexico, San Jose State being shared opponents with a little variation after that.
Where the discussion took a turn was Utah State’s sweep of San Diego State last week, knocking the Aztecs down to fifth-place. Boise State on the other hand swept Wyoming, which gave no huge momentum to the “Bronco’s are number one” cause.
Fast forward to Tuesday when the Aggies took the floor against the Rams and just outplayed a very good but after thought Colorado State squad to the conference title contender conversation. This could maybe be contributed to a dreadful 33-53 loss at the hands of WCC power St. Mary’s back in December, but either way, folks lost faith in the Rams to contend.
An 83-64 show of force by Craig Smith’s squad just solidified the growing respect for Utah State among viewers. While nudging them in the direction of the notion that Colorado State just isn’t at the title contention level this season like maybe we all preached back in November.
Niko Medved and his program on the other hand feeling a little disrespected being out of the discussion all together after handing San Diego State that loss back in Viejas Arena earlier this month decided to remind folks what contender killers they are last night.
Things were close in game-two, with a half-time score of 37-35 with the Rams up two before half-time. Although the game remained close, Aggie rim protector Neemias Queta found himself in foul trouble with two quick ones picked up at the start of the half.
A trip to the bench kept things a little more leveled down-low and both sides exchanged shots until Queta returned quickly to only be sent back to the bench with his third foul of the half coming at the 11:58 min mark. Things remained close but Queta’s presence on both ends of the floor was missed, especially with his teammates going a combined 22-59 (37.2%, not counting Queta’s contributions) from the field.
I went back and forth on Colorado State’s player spotlight from the series, as super sophomore duo, Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy just do so much for their team. Both yield similar stats playing two very different roles on the Rams squad.
I decided to divide the award up this series because without Roddy’s hustle and energy on second chance rebounds and assists out of the post, I don’t think the Rams take that second-half lead in game-two and win.
Steven’s led his squad in scoring and assists in both games, while also lending his help on the glass. The reigning MW Freshman of the Year
Utah State: Alphonso Anderson, series stats: 11.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG & 1.0 SPG
Another as it was Queta’s game-one performance that really made Utah State so dominant on Tuesday night. But even though Queta’s stat line Thursday night looked good, going 5-5 from the field and 3-3 from the free throw line. His presence was clearly missed in the second-half and getting in foul trouble so quickly out of half-time may have lost his team game-two.
So instead I chose Alphonso Anderson, whose playing time has taken a hit this year but has made the most of his time off the bench. Anderson was a key scorer in this series, in just 16.5 MPG he managed to score 10 and 12 points. His role is important, because in the second-half of last night’s game when shots were just not falling when Queta went to the bench. Anderson was able to provide an option down low while continuing to knock down shots, keeping the Aggies in the contest.
He was no substitute for Queta’s shot alerting in the paint, but at least managed to help exchange buckets with a crafty Ram’s offense until removed from the game.
How's everyone feeling??
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) January 22, 2021
Mountain West Standings After the series:
T-1) Boise State 13-1 (9-0)
2) Utah State 12-4 (9-1)
3) Colorado State 11-3 (8-2)
4) Nevada 10-5 (5-3)
5) San Diego State 9-4 (3-3)
5) UNLV 4-6 (2-2)
7) Fresno State 5-6 (3-6)
8) Wyoming 8-5 (2-4)
9) Air Force 4-8 (2-6)
10) New Mexico 5-8 (1-8)
11) San Jose State 2-11 (0-9)
The Rams head home to Fort Collins to prepare to host another conference leader in Boise State Wednesday the 27th and then again on Friday the 29th. The Broncos are currently 13-1 (9-0, in the MW) on the season and are themselves in the middle of a two-game series hosting Fresno State in Boise. Game-one went to the Broncos, 73-51 but the Bulldogs do have another opportunity at the upset on Friday.
The Rams have split series with San Diego State and Utah State to this point in route to that third place standing. Boise State has everyone’s eyes glued on them, undefeated and untested in conference play. Wednesday’s game-one tip off is a huge one, but game-two could be just as big.
The Aggies are in for a quick turnaround as they pack their bags and head southwest for sin city. They’ll take on a UNLV squad who seems to be on the uptick with four straight wins, but are the clear favorite. Thursday was a wakeup call to just how important Neemias Queta is on both ends of the floor for this Aggie squad.
For the seven-foot big man to grow and contribute to his team’s win column continuously, he needs to learn how to frighten opposing offenses while staying on the floor. If he learns that lesson quickly, watch out UNLV.
This series was competitive and something fans of the Mountain West were desperately in need of. The phrase three-bid league was thrown a lot on twitter this week. Given the level of competition being displayed from teams in the the top-half of the conference standings.
But, it’s still too soon to tell whether or not the games played thus far warrant more than even our conference’s automatic tournament bid come March. But both of these teams will certainly be in the discussion.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.