3 takeaways: Nico Carvacho dominant, but Rams beaten in the paint again

Nico Carvacho scores inside. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.
Nico Carvacho scores inside. Credit: CSU Athletics Communications.

Colorado State started a streak on Sunday, winning their second straight game, this time a 68-63 loss to the South Dakota Coyotes.

It was certainly not an easy contest for either side; South Dakota led for much of the first half, leading by as much as eight points with 10:03 left in the first half. But Colorado State — led by Nico Carvacho — stormed back and took the 30-29 lead at the break. J.D. Paige’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave them the narrow advantage and lit the crowd on fire.

South Dakota was pesky though, hanging around and then not only taking a lead, but pushed it to 53-46 with an 10-0 run mid-way through the second half. Carvacho, Paige and Co. had to scratch and claw their way back into the game, but could never even tie it up again in the second half, let alone gain the lead.

The Rams were off offensively, lacking good ball movement, settling for too many deep shots and were too lackadaisical inside the paint.

“I’m incredibly disappointed here today,” head coach Niko Medved said after the loss. “I thin we played incredibly selfishly on both ends when it mattered the most. And until that piece changes, it’s going to be very, very difficult for us.”

Let’s look at the three takeaways.

1. Nico Carvacho crushing it in the paint: Rams have been dominated in the paint this year many times, and they made a concerted effort to go down into the paint with Nico Carvacho repeatedly on Sunday afternoon.

Carvacho, the most dominant player for Colorado State, scored the first eight points of the game for the Rams, all in the painted area. He scored with a right-handed hook, a spinner and left-hand finish, a rebound put-back and more. Nico finished the first half with 12 points and seven rebounds and he wasn’t done there.

When it was all said and done, Nico scored 20 and enjoyed 17 rebounds, scoring a vast majority of his points down low. But, Carvacho can’t be the only one doing work down low.

“That’s been the gameplan coming into these games, playing inside-out,” Carvacho explained. “I’ve been working on my game, playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m just going out there, trying to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

2. Rams still weren’t great on the defensive end in the paint, though. Colorado State was awesome offensively in the paint, but a lack of intensity, effort and desire on the defensive end led to 11 offensive rebounds for the Coyotes and South Dakota scored 26 in the paint during the contest.

In the second half, the Rams couldn’t get a rebound off a missed free throw. That turned into an and-one for South Dakota, pushing the lead to 48-46 with 11 minutes to play thanks to that sequence. That was part of the 10-0 run by the Coyotes which gave them momentum and a 7-point lead. Later in the second half, with two minutes to go, Kris Martin didn’t even try to box-out his opponent and the Coyotes not only stole the rebound but earned an and-one on that possession.

The Coyotes won the rebounding battle 39-38, yet another game the Rams didn’t edge out their opponents on the boards.

“The offensive rebounds, it’s a gang rebound (effort),” Carvacho explained. “Everybody’s got to block-out. We’ve been working on it. Thought we got better, this game we kind of slid a little bit. I think everybody knows how to block out, so we should be good.”

3. Rams continue to settle for too many 3-pointers. This Colorado State team is unique because there are so many talented shooters this year, but that also leads to them settling for too many 3s, which we saw again on Sunday afternoon. The Rams went 7-26 (26.9 percent) from downtown on Sunday, and we saw Doobie Jenkins take a way-too-early 3 on one possession in particular early.

Considering how well the Rams were scoring inside to start the game, going away from that was somewhat concerning. CSU ended up tying the points in the paint battle 26-26, but could have lost, partially because they went away from what made them successful to start, feeding Carvacho inside.

“We got some good looks, a couple times we forced the issue a little bit,” Paige said of the 3-pointers.