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Colorado State basketball’s unbeaten start ends with lopsided loss at San Diego State

SAN DIEGO — With every dunk and 3-pointer the noise from the crowd grew louder as it cascaded down on the court.

The Show, San Diego State’s student section, may have been cut down in numbers due to semester break, but they were vocal.

“OVERRATED” shouts hit the Colorado State men’s basketball team.

You have to be a very good team to have the chant used against you, but it also takes a tough loss to have it used.

That happened Saturday.

San Diego State blew out the Rams 79-49 in front of 10,323 fans at Viejas Arena in a nationally televised game Saturday afternoon to end the unbeaten start of the season for the top-25 Rams.

“Everybody gets whooped every now and then, we’ll take it on the chin and keep moving,” CSU guard Isaiah Stevens said.

CSU (11-1, 1-1 Mountain West) never found a rhythm offensively and San Diego State (10-3, 2-0 MW) was led by lights-out shooting from California transfer Matt Bradley. A lopsided second half and final 5 minutes turned a close game to a blowout.

Bradley finished with 26 points (three off a career-high) and snapped what was the second-longest winning streak in CSU history.

Here are some thoughts on the end to CSU’s unbeaten start.

No secondary scoring for CSU

Dischon Thomas had the first shot of each half and each (a first-half layup and second-half 3-pointer) rimmed out. It was a fitting symbol for how the game went for the Rams offensively.

The two stars — Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy — did their thing. They combined for 36 points (19 for Stevens, 17 for Roddy) points and did it efficiently. The rest of the team scored just 13.

The other Rams simply weren’t able to find the basket with any regularity. When CSU had 38 points (as San Diego State was growing the lead to double digits), the non-Roddy/Stevens Rams had just one field goal and seven points.

CSU’s secondary scoring is one of the reasons the team was unbeaten so far and the lack of it cost the Rams in this one.

Pretty much any stat you want to look at helped tell the story of the game. San Diego State shot 48% to CSU’s 29%. The Aztecs dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Rams 38-21. San Diego State outscored CSU 34-14 in the paint.

(Story continues below gallery)

Second-half collapse

CSU trailed by just four at half and it looked set to be a great final 20 minutes.

But San Diego State ran away early in the second half, leading to “overrated” chants raining down from the crowd late in game.

The Aztecs hit seven of their first eight shots of the half and ballooned the lead to 15 early on. CSU never found a way back.

“Right at the end of the first half I thought they started to impose their physicality a little bit and then obviously that just turned into a groundswell in the second half,” CSU coach Niko Medved said.

“I hate how we played, especially in the second half. But it’s a loss and we’ll move on and get better. I have no doubt this team will respond from it.”

It got really ugly in the final minutes as CSU lost focus and allowed San Diego State to get frequent fastbreak points to turn the score really lopsided.

With the game already decided, the Aztecs finished the game on a 14-0 run.

Not ideal timing, but a big matchup

Each team had reason to not be thrilled with the timing of this rescheduled game, which was put together late in the week after CSU and San Diego State’s opponents were each unable to play due to COVID issues.

San Diego State was missing multiple players due to COVID issues of their own and the Rams are still coming back from a shutdown that saw them go 24 days without playing.

History has shown that teams coming back from COVID shutdowns usually take several games to return to peak level and it showed Saturday. Credit also goes to the always-tough San Diego State defense.

This was CSU’s first road game in front of a big crowd since late in 2019. The Rams had only played home and neutral games this season. The attendance Saturday was more than five times bigger than what CSU saw in 2020-21, with the largest crowd last season 2,000 due to COVID.

“Got to be tougher, both physically and emotionally. Teams are going to go on runs, crowds are going to be into it in conference play,” Stevens said.

San Diego State can rightly say that it picked up a big win Saturday, knocking off a top-20 team despite a shorthanded lineup.

Despite the less-than-perfect timing, nothing is perfect this season and it was a big game. The Aztecs held serve at home and now have a very early edge in Mountain West play.

What does this mean for CSU’s season?

Most teams who come to Viejas Arena lose. Saturday was San Diego State’s 16th home win in a row.

Losing here doesn’t derail any of CSU’s big goals (win the Mountain West, go to the NCAA Tournament). Most important will be how CSU (ranked No. 19 in the coaches poll and No. 20 by AP poll) responds.

Do the Rams learn how to fight through a long, athletic defense like San Diego State? Do they figure out ways to find scoring in a game that’s not free-flowing?

There’s no reason to panic from one loss at arguably the toughest arena in the Mountain West. The contest was a Quad 1 battle for each team in regards to the NCAA NET rankings.

CSU’s biggest task is responding with a win on Wednesday at home against Utah State (6 p.m. at Moby Arena).

“You can’t overreact to any of these things or under-react,” Medved said.

“We know we have some things we’ll really have to clean up here if we’re going to win at the level we want to. At the same time, we’re 11-1, it’s a loss and we get to go play again on Wednesday.”

Follow Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle. Coloradoan sports can also be followed on Twitter. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: San Diego State basketball hands No. 19 Colorado State first loss

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