They say basketball is a game of runs but this was ridiculous.
Trailing 33-7 on national TV but no one could see it because the earlier game went over its allotted time. When CBS switched to the CSU-San Diego State game, the switch also went off for the Rams. They closed the half on a crazy 21-2 run and remarkably trailed by only 40-33 as they headed to the locker room.
An early run by San Diego State to start the second half was countered immediately by a 14-0 Ram run, cutting the lead to 1.
The teams traded punches but when the Rams fell behind by 8 inside of 2:00, it was fight or flight time.
And fight they did as the Rams ran off the games final 11 points to score the most improbable of victories.
The largest comeback ever by CSU.
The largest comeback ever in a Mountain West Conference game.
The largest comeback in the 2020-21 season to date in all of D-1 hoops.
If you have followed me, you know I prefer to write while watching a game in person. I’m not sure I can offer any kind of insight that the rest of you cant see on the same TV broadcast I watch. But regardless, I can try to walk you through the final extraordinary minute.
The Final Minute
Head Coach Niko Medved attributed it to, “Our late game execution was excellent on both ends of the floor.”
Following an Isaiah Stevens layup and the final CSU timeout, it began with a strategic foul on SDSU’s Trey Pulliam, a 50% free throw shooter. Pulliam obliged by missing the front end of the 1-and-1.
A David Roddy rebound, a sprint up the floor and a tough finish at the rim by John Tonje and the Rams were within 3 with 45 seconds to go.
They needed a stop and a rebound.
They got it and sprinted up the floor again.
The ball was in the hands of CSU’s super finisher Stevens who is familiar with late game heroics, having hit multiple game winners in his freshman campaign.
He noticed Tonje open in the corner. Tonje rose and fired a 3-ball for the tie.
It was his first opportunity to shoot a game winner in a Ram uniform.
But it was a shot he had prepared for his entire career. Lightly recruited out of Omaha, NE, Tonje had taken that shot many times, “I practice those shots all the time in the gym, counting down 3-2-1”, he said post-game
And a foul by SDSU’s Jordan Schakel putting Tonje on the line for the potential game winning points. Which he calmly drained.
CSU had their first lead since the first minute of the game.
And now came winning time on the defensive end.
San Diego State called a timeout. And Medved went with a small lineup. They talked in the huddle about switching all screens, defending without fouling and doing their best to wall up, forcing a tough shot.
The Rams had a feeling the ball would end up in the hands of big-bodied, go to senior Matt Mitchell. David Roddy switched onto Mitchell after a screen at the top of the key. And Roddy was ready.
He knew Mitchell liked to shoot fadeaway jumpers. But when Mitchell kept driving toward the rim Roddy had to adjust. “I just tried to take away a layup.” He forced Mitchell into a difficult shooting angle and the shot fell off the rim.
CSU’s Kendle Moore, the smallest of all, garnered the rebound and was fouled by the Aztecs with 2.7 seconds to go.
Still work to do.
Moore drained the two free throws to push the lead to 3.
Still time for the Aztecs to go the length of the court. And given their three-point prowess, the Rams had to focus defensively.
Medved inserted big James Moors to guard the inbounds pass. Moors forced a long inbound pass to be lofted and David Roddy, former All-State prep football player, displayed free safety skills as he intercepted the pass and dribbled out the game.
The Rams had scored the most famous regular season victory ever. Only their second win in San Diego in the last 16 years. Their first win over a Top-25 opponent since the 2012-13 season.
You don’t need to know the individual superlatives.
You do need to know that after the game, David Roddy told his head coach, “Hey Coach, this is what I came here to do.”
The two teams meet again on Monday in the second of the pandemic pair.
Said Medved, “Hopefully we won’t spot them 25 in the next game.”