3 takeaways: CSU stays perfect by edging Montana State in closing minutes

Lorenzo Jenkins. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.
Lorenzo Jenkins. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.

CSU needs to stick to its game, and not get carried away from outside the arc.

To live and die by the 3.

That is the exact opposite of what head coach Niko Medved wants his team to do. Especially when all of his 3-point threats are players who possess a mid-range game, or are capable of producing in the paint, too.

Colorado State got a little carried away from deep on Wednesday night, to say the least, even if they did win the game 81-77.

In the Rams’ defense, it’s understandable to want to incorporate the 3-ball after performing so well from three to begin the season. CSU shot a combined 51.9 percent from downtown during its first two games of the season.

Medved probably preached to keep shooting it from deep in practice as well. However, that doesn’t mean CSU should completely abandon its game and start jacking up 3s. Well, that is exactly what happened against Montana State. And it cost them.

The Rams went 4-17 from beyond the arc in the first half. The deep ball evidently wasn’t working early, but CSU kept shooting it in the second half. The results were the same. Overall, the Rams went 6-30 from deep. That’s awful.

Taking 3s are fine for the Rams if they are still sticking to their intended style of play. An ideal long-range shot in Medved’s offense would be an open 3, created by multiple passes, late in the shot clock.

On Wednesday night, a significant portion of CSU’s 3s were taken unnecessarily quick. Or, they were heaved up as a result of a broken possession, with no motion.

The Rams should never be doing that. Medved looked like he wanted to pull his hair out on the bench. 

If CSU stuck to the game plan, chances are Wednesday night would not have gone down to the wire. Just look at the statistics.

The Rams converted 23-32 two-point shots (72 percent). When you are shooting so well inside the arc, there is no reason to keep stepping beyond it to release.

Too many 3s can plague a team. For the Rams, doing so was nearly deadly on Wednesday night.

“We told them right away, don’t settle,” Medved said. “Obviously you are going to take open shots. But, I just thought we bailed them out. We made it easy for them. Instead of getting the ball to the post, getting the ball to the paint, cutting hard.”

J.D. Paige has emerged as the leader he was intended to become.

The Rams’ veteran trio gives them loads of experience. Nico Carvacho and Anthony Masinton-Bonner are obviously two of the three members of said trio. However, if there is one leader for CSU, it is redshirt senior, Colorado native J.D. Paige.

It showed on Wednesday night. Frankly, it looked like Paige wanted to win that game more than any of his teammates. One could see it in his eyes. Or by how he ferociously kept attacking the rim.

Other than Masinton-Bonner’s go-ahead three with 1:23 remaining, Paige hit all of the big shots for CSU.

Paige forced the issue by knocking down a contested two-footer, tying the game at 71 with under two minutes left in the game. Around a minute prior, Paige drove to the rack and made a layup, contact included. The guard completed the three-point play, tying the game at 69.

It was the redshirt senior who came through when CSU desperately-needed someone to step up.

It is fitting that Paige tied a career-high 23 points against the Bobcats. The guard also set a new career high in shots made. Paige went 9-16 from the floor.

That number is a bit misleading as well. As previously mentioned, the Rams couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat from 3. Paige finished 1-7 from deep.

However, the Colorado native converted 8-9 shots from inside the arc. This appropriately indicates Paige’s dribble-drive was better than ever seen before. Frankly, his dribble-drive was nearly unstoppable.

“You just have to stay with it at times and keep fighting,” Medved said. “Guys like (Paige) showed a ton of leadership that way. He took the challenge of guarding (Tyler) Hall and made some huge plays for us offensively.”

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start taking “Doobie” seriously.

Paige deserves more credit than anyone in carrying the Rams to their third victory of the season.

However, before Paige really heated up, Lorenzo Jenkins was leading the way just as much, if not more than Paige.

In fact, the only CSU player whose long-range shooting can be backed up is Jenkins. “Doobie” went 4-6 from deep and scored 12 points overall. Jenkins has now reached double figures scoring in all three of the Rams’ games this season.

Last season, Jenkins did so only twice.  

Doobie’s first year of eligibility since transferring from Arkansas was last season. The guard was decently involved, but far from an impact player. He played only 13.6 minutes per game.

Jenkins bought into Medved’s system during the offseason. He’s worked hard, coaches have praised him, and it has shown on the court. Deservingly, Jenkins has started every game for the Rams so far.

Expect the guard to continue to crack CSU’s starting five. Now, instead of simply being involved, Doobie has transitioned to a true impact player.

“He made some big shots,” Medved said. “He battled…Doobie is not afraid. He steps up, he takes shots, he’s not afraid to shoot it.”

Next up, Medved’s Rams take on three teams in three days as part of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, FL. They play Louisiana on Monday (3 p.m.) Nov. 19 before playing either Toledo or Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, the Nov. 20.