FRISCO, Texas – Colorado State regrouped from Saturday’s heartbreak solely to expertise it yet again on Sunday.
After trailing nearly all of the NIT third-place recreation on the Comerica Middle, Louisiana Tech rallied within the second half behind Kenneth Lofton Jr., who fought by means of visitors to hit the game-winning layup with .3 seconds remaining to offer the Bulldogs a 76-74 victory.
“A tricky method to finish the season that manner,” CSU coach Niko Medved stated, his staff closing with a 20-8 file total. “It was a extremely aggressive recreation between two good groups. In the end, they simply made just a few extra performs than we did.
“It is onerous. This specific recreation I although within the first half we have been actually enjoying nicely. We had a four-point lead, however I believed our lead ought to have been lots bigger. We simply turned the ball over too many instances. We have got to study in these moments the place you will have a chance to increase the lead we have got to take it, as a result of it comes again to bit you.”
Medved was by no means involved about his staff getting back from the 90-67 loss the day earlier than to Memphis, which went on to win the NIT championship. It is the character of his staff to be resilient and bounce again, and Louisiana Tech did the identical.
The sluggish offensive begins which had put the Rams in early holes the previous couple of video games weren’t an issue in opposition to the Bulldogs, and due to it, the Rams led for 31:40 of the sport. However as Medved alluded to, 12 first-half turnovers saved the Rams from creating an actual massive hole within the first 20 minute, although the Rams did push the margin to 11 with lower than 9 minutes remaining.
The gaps they left open, Lofton, the La Tech submit, pushed and plowed his manner by means of.
The Rams by no means actually had a solution for him, as he scored a game-best 27 factors on 10-of-13 capturing, including seven extra from the free-throw line. Regardless of the strategy the Rams took defensively, he discovered an answer.
“We tried just a few totally different ones; you solely have so many choices,” Medved stated. “Clearly he is a man, not simply us, he is a terrific younger participant. He is such a singular participant. We introduced assist to the submit; we in all probability did not carry it early sufficient at instances. We have been in all probability going to have to face in there, and he is a load and the sport was actually, actually bodily, however we have been in all probability going to must attempt to take some costs on him and stand our floor and we did not do this sufficient.”
He additionally pulled down 13 rebounds, 5 on the offensive glass, serving to to offer the Bulldogs a 13-2 edge in second-chance factors.
When the Bulldogs made their push, he acquired a complimentary efficiency from Kalob Ledoux, who scored 11 of his 14 factors within the second half, hitting a trio of treys within the last 20 minutes.
Colorado State countered with robust play off the bench, most notably from Dischon Thomas, who scored 15 factors for the Rams, hitting three trifectas himself.
“It was big. He actually labored onerous on the offensive glass, and he clearly offers a component together with his potential to shoot the ball from the five-spot,” Medved stated. “That actually places the protection in a predicament that manner. They ended up switching every thing on the finish as a result of he knocked down some massive photographs. I believed his power was superior at the moment, and I although he actually introduced it right here.”
With 4:24 remaining, David Roddy took an elbow to the top, which opened up a minimize above his eye. He left the ground in a tie recreation, and when he returned with 1:51 to go, the Rams trailed by 5. He had a steal which led to a pair of free throws by John Tonje, then capped a quick break with a layup which tied the sport with 22 seconds remaining.
When the Bulldogs crossed half court docket and known as timeout, everyone knew the ball was going to Lofton. Nonetheless, he discovered his manner by means of visitors to hit the layup. Guard Isaiah Stevens put up a full court docket heave which hit the juncture of the rim and backboard, sliding away because the buzzer was nonetheless sounding.
“I believed it had an opportunity, identical to about each different shot that I shoot,” stated Stevens, who led the Rams with 18 factors and 7 assists. “I want it went in for us, however it did not.”
Colorado State got here away with a 20 wins in a uniquely making an attempt yr, and it was the second consecutive season below Medved the Rams have hit the overall. The final time that occurred was again within the 2011-12/2012-13 seasons.
The Rams, who haven’t any seniors on roster, know they’re on the best way up. It simply did not really feel prefer it within the moments after the defeat.
“It stings proper now, particularly for me,” Stevens stated. “I hate to lose, however on the identical time, cannot dwell on it. You gotta be capable to study and develop from these conditions and it’ll make us a greater staff come subsequent season.”
The gamers weren’t alone. Their head coach was fighting the identical feelings himself. After a loss like that, they’ll all require a cushion between heartbreak and reflection.
It seemingly will not come within the subsequent 24 hours. Perhaps not even within the subsequent week. However when the Rams return to observe, Medved is assured they’re going to be able to tackle a brand new set of challenges.
“Like I informed the blokes, it will not really feel like that now, and it would not for me, however I do know once we mirror, this was a heck of a season and we took a serious step ahead,” he stated. “We have been just a few performs away from possibly enjoying within the NCAA Event and successful a Mountain West championship. The concept is to study from the expertise this yr and determine how we will get higher within the offseason and attempt to take the subsequent step this season.”