Aggies back on the road to take on “balanced” Colorado State squad

Photo by Robert K. Scott

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Wednesday night’s contest for the Aggies promises a high-intensity matchup between two of the best teams in the conference. Utah State (10-5) visits Colorado State (11-1) at Moby Arena for each team’s third conference game of the season.

“[Colorado State is a] well-coached team. [A] veteran squad that we’re facing here that had a ton of success last year,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “We have a tough conference and certainly, we’re excited about the challenge to play a really good team on the road.”

The Aggies will face a hungry Colorado State squad that is fresh off an upset loss to San Diego State, 79-49. The loss knocked the Rams out of the AP Top 25 and handed them their first loss of the season. The final score difference may show a blowout, but Odom said he still sees Colorado State as a top team.

“I don’t know if there’s any cause for alarm for Colorado State at all. They’ve got to just continue to play their brand of basketball,” Odom said. “They had a rough…second half against San Diego State and so we know that they’ll be ready as they come home for this game in particular.”

Utah State, on the other hand, is riding high after a come-from-behind overtime win at New Mexico, 90-87. However, the Aggies’ last two games have been decided by one possession. Colorado State will likely prove to be a tougher challenge than Air Force and New Mexico.

“That’s what conference play is all about. A lot of times it does come down to one or two possessions and you got to figure out a way to turn it in your favor,” Odom said.

The Aggies faced the Rams three times last season and won the season series with a victory in the semifinal of the conference tournament. Both teams ended up making the big dance, but there is some bad blood between the squads.

“There’s a familiarity amongst both teams,” Odom said. “Individuals know one another’s game…that’s certainly a factor. But at the same time, there’s new guys involved on both sides as well.”

Utah State has seen the most personnel changes since last season including a new head coach, three starting players transferring in and starters from last season leaving.

The Rams are led by a potent offense that averages 86.8 points per game. They excel at giving opponents variety around the basket.

“I really like their balance of inside and out. They’re really well balanced from an offensive perspective. They can beat you on the block. They can beat you in transition. They can beat you by spreading the court and passing,” Odom said.

Forward David Roddy is the Ram to watch out for. The junior from Minneapolis has torn up defenses this season, dropping 34 points on both Creighton and Northeastern. He averages 19.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

“He’s really good in transition like [Justin] Bean. They’ll kick it ahead to him and he’ll take it right to the rack. He can shoot behind the line, certainly does that in pick-and-pop situations. He rebounds, he defends, he’s a complete player,” Odom said. “[He is] one of the better players in our conference.”

Roddy can also make an impact on defense. He has racked up 16 blocks and 13 steals this season.

With similar styles of play and significance to their teams, the matchup between Bean and Roddy should be exciting.

“I think they’re both really good players. Both mean a lot to their teams. Certainly, that’s a matchup that everybody will look at, but certainly, that’s not the way that we view it. It’s a five-on-five game and it’s Colorado State versus Utah State. And we got to make sure that it’s a game where we’re imposing our will, our team’s will on the game,” Odom said.

Another Ram likely to make an impact is Isaiah Stevens from Allen, Texas. Stevens is one of three Rams to start every game they have played this season. He runs Colorado State’s offense leading the team in assists by a wide margin. He puts up 14.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

Guard John Tonje is a weapon for Colorado State off the bench. He shoots 50% from downtown and is third on the team in scoring. Tonje averages 11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.

“He’s a really good player. He’s an aggressive scorer too. When he comes in the game he’s going after it,” Odom said.

Utah State’s squad is healthy and good to go for the contest. After he exited Saturday’s game early due to injury, guard Rylan Jones is cleared to return.

“All in all, our guys are doing well. We tried to keep it as low intensity in practice as we could to give our guys the best chance for success,” Odom said.

The team has also so far avoided major COVID-19 infections inside the locker room. Odom said the team is taking precautions to stay healthy and ensure they can play their slate of games.

“If they get symptoms then we’ll test them and if they end up having it, obviously they go into the protocol,” Odom said. “We’re all vaccinated. The majority of them are boosted and those that are not boosted it’s not their time yet.”

Utah State’s opponents have not been as fortunate against the virus. The Aggies have faced two postponed games, the Boise State game was rescheduled for Jan. 20, and may see another one as Wyoming continues to follow protocols after postponing their last three games.

“It hammers home the fact that you can’t have any regrets. We’ve talked to our guys a lot about that. Not just in terms of basketball, just in life in general. You want to make the most of the moments you have. Certainly this team has one chance to do it. We want to make the most of our time together. So being disciplined, being consistent and really going for it is what we want to be all about,” Odom said.

The game tips off at 6 p.m. MST and will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

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