The Colorado State Rams coasted to an 87-67 exhibition victory over CSU-Pueblo behind a commanding second half performance.
The Rams shot 48 percent from the floor as a team and had four players reach a double-digit scoring total.
Additionally, CSU used its size and physicality advantage over its DII opponent to draw 26 fouls, resulting in 36 free throw attempts. The Rams made the most of their free-bes, which proved to be instrumental in the win. CSU went 26-36 from the line.
Instead of glancing over the statistics any further, let’s take a look at the three things that stood out most for the green and gold on Saturday.
Kendle Moore instantly earned valuable playing time as a freshman. In his collegiate debut, the freshman guard was both the most effective and efficient player on the court against CSU-Pueblo.
New head coach Niko Medved expressed earlier in the week that Moore demonstrated substantial maturity and effort during practice. This is most likely what led Medved to giving Moore the opportunity to start against the Thunderwolves on Saturday.
The Danville, IL product didn’t squander the opportunity. Moore led all scorers with 19 points. The 5’10” guard converted 7-9 shots from the floor, including all six of his two-point field goal attempts.
Moore was lights-out from a scoring perspective, getting to the rack with speed. Scoring was just one of the many encouraging aspects within Moore’s performance, though.
The guard showed us on Saturday how troublesome his quickness can be for opposing teams. Moore frequently used his agility to get to the rim, and he finished the job in the paint every time. The shifty guard evidently possesses a knack for finding the rim.
Moore was all over the place on Saturday. The Danville product also added five rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
It’s worth noting that Moore’s 31 minutes against the Thunderwolves were the most from any CSU player. Despite the heavy involvement in his first ever game with the Rams, fatigue was never an issue for the energetic guard.
Moore’s small frame could be a challenge once CSU faces D1 competition. After all, his inspiring, energetic performance came against far inferior competition.
Still, the small guard’s speed will help compensate for size disadvantages down the stretch. He also made it clear to the media that putting on weight is a current goal of his.
Given that Medved announced transfer guard Kris Martin will be suspended for the first five regular season games, Moore will have the opportunity to play a key role early on. This also gives him the advantage of getting into the swing of things before Martin is able to do so.
Expect Medved to incorporate Moore immediately, even as soon as Wednesday’s season-opener against Colorado-Christian.
As a result of new offensive style, turnovers may be a problem early on. CSU turned the ball over six times before CSU-Pueblo coughed the ball up once on Saturday, which is a bit alarming. Overall, the Rams had 16 turnovers while the Thunderwolves only turned it over 14 times.
This really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Medved brought over a faster-paced, transition offense to this program, something the Rams aren’t accustomed to.
Adjusting to the newly installed offense will take some time. Even though Medved has obviously focused on doing so in practice, actual game experience is necessary for the transition.
It’s difficult to imagine the sloppy play and turnovers disappearing overnight, especially when a DII program handled the ball better than CSU on Saturday.
However, Medved would likelyrather have turnovers be a problem now than later. The Rams can afford a higher amount of miscues against less talented opponents such as Colorado-Christian and Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
Conveniently, those are the first two games on the Rams’ schedule.
Thistlewood will be instrumental in creating second-chance opportunities off the glass. The freshman forward is raw and not as physical as he’d like to be, which is the case for most first-year big men.
Regardless, Thistlewood was the second freshman to make his presence known against Pueblo.
The 6’6” Golden, CO native led CSU with three offensive rebounds on Saturday afternoon.
In general, the Rams’ roster doesn’t include many players capable of keeping offensive possessions alive following a missed shot. Given that Deion James has decided to redshirt the 2018-19 season, Thistlewood is probably CSU’s best rebounder besides Nico Carvacho.
And Carvacho can’t be the only one rebounding for the Rams to be competitive.
CSU has some good shooters, don’t get me wrong, but not good enough shooters to completely make up for too many one-shot possessions. With James out of the picture, Thistlewood’s role will be expanded right off the bat.
He scored 16 points on Saturday and went 11-12 from the free throw line. His ability to initiate contact and establish himself in the paint was promising.
But, more than for his scoring, Thistlewood will be needed for his rebounding. The forward will be thrown right into the fire this season. If anything, the expanded role to begin his collegiate career should at least bode his progression well.
While there were many storylines today, CSU tips off their regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. MST at Moby Arena.