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No. 16 Colorado State makes tricky visit to Loyola Marymount

no.-16-colorado-state-makes-tricky-visit-to-loyola-marymount

For No. 16 Colorado State, an eight-day break and a game with Division II CSU-Pueblo arrived at the right time.

Needing a reset after eating their first loss on Dec. 9 against Saint Mary’s, the Rams got it with an extended break for exams and then a glorified scrimmage to resume the schedule. The 86-54 win was at once expected and gratifying.

“It wasn’t a work of art,” said Colorado State coach Niko Medved, “but we also did some good things.”

The Rams will try to build on those good things Friday night when they make the trip to Los Angeles for a nonconference contest with dangerous Loyola Marymount.

The usual suspects had their hands all over the latest win with point guard Isaiah Stevens supplying 18 points and six assists to lead all five starters in double figures. Nique Clifford, Taviontae Jackson and Patrick Cartier each added 13 points, while Joel Scott scored 11.

Colorado State (10-1) displayed its usual efficiency, canning nearly 51 percent of its field goal attempts and going 10 of 26 from the 3-point line. The Rams drew 24 assists on 29 made buckets with six players earning multiple helpers.

Stevens’ play sets the tone for this team. He’s just 14 points from breaking the school’s career scoring record held by Pat Durham, who had 1,980 from 1985-89. But Medved says just one thing presently concerns his leader.

“Winning games,” he said of Stevens. “He appreciates those things a lot … he’ll appreciate it a heck of a lot more down the road than today.”

Per kenpom.com, Colorado State has the No. 4-best effective field goal percentage in Division I at 59.3 percent and the 15th-best turnover rate with just 13.8 per 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, Loyola Marymount (7-5) started a six-game homestand Monday night by stopping winless Detroit Mercy 76-56. The Lions got 19 points off the bench from North Carolina Central transfer Justin Wright, who went over the 1,000-point mark for his career, plus 18 from Gonzaga transfer Dominick Harris.

With more playing time available after escaping the stacked roster that the Zags employ yearly, Harris is averaging a career-high 15.1 points on 48 percent shooting from the field. Alex Merkviladze chips in 11.3 and a team-high 6.0 rebounds, while Wright tallies 11.0 points and LSU transfer Justice Hill scores 10.0 per game.

Adding that trio of transfers to preseason all-league pick Keli Leaupepe got the attention of West Coast Conference coaches, who picked LMU for a fourth-place finish behind preseason favorite Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and San Francisco.

The Lions haven’t quite realized that potential. Their best win is on a neutral court against UNLV, but they also have four defeats to teams ranked 110 or lower in the kenpom rankings.

Loyola Marymount owns a 5-4 lead in the all-time series, but Colorado State won 87-71 last year in Fort Collins behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from since-departed John Tonje. This will be the fifth time the teams have met on LMU’s home floor.

–Field Level Media

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