Colorado braces for stern test vs. No. 20 Colorado State

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 28 Nov, 2023 at 06:33 PM

Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry between Colorado and No. 20 Colorado State is normally about bragging rights within the state, but there is a little more on the line on Wednesday when they meet in Fort Collins, Colo.

The visiting Buffaloes (5-1) spent two weeks in the rankings before an overtime loss to Florida State on Nov. 21 dropped them out of the polls. They can quickly get back in because the Rams (6-0) went from unranked to No. 20 following an impressive 69-48 win over Creighton, which was No. 8 at the time.

Colorado State is ranked for the first time since March 2022 and has never been higher than No. 18 in the polls, but that could change with a win over the instate rival. The Rams are built around 6-foot senior Isaiah Stevens, who is in his fifth year due to the COVID extension rule.

Stevens is averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 assists this season. He scored 20 points in the dismantling of the Bluejays that gave Colorado State the Hall of Fame Classic title last week.

"I feel like we work so hard day in and day out, at some point you want to go out and compete against some of the best teams in the country," Stevens said.

Stevens is surrounded by a long, athletic team that has won every game by double digits. The Rams have four players averaging in double figures and one of them, Nique Clifford, was on the other side of the rivalry.

Clifford played the previous three seasons with Colorado before transferring north 65 miles to play for head coach Niko Medved.

The Buffaloes are playing their first true road game of the season. They split their two games last week in the Sunshine Slam in Daytona, Fla., defeating Richmond on Nov. 20 before falling to the Seminoles.

Playing the streaking Rams will be a difficult task for Colorado.

"CSU has good players and it's not going to be easy going up there," Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle said. "We know the environment is not going to be easy, but then playing Colorado State and the players that they have is not going to be easy, either, because they're laying in the weeds for us. I know what we're heading into and now it's our job as coaches to make our players understand it."

Colorado rebounded from its lone loss to rout Iona 85-68 on Sunday.

The Buffaloes have five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by junior KJ Simpson (18.3). Senior Tristan da Silva is averaging 15.2 points a game and surpassed the 1,000 career points mark in the win over the Gaels on Sunday.

"I honestly didn't know where I was before the game, or actually my whole three years, so it's crazy to think about joining that club," he said. "But I'm just grateful -- grateful for my teammates."

He and the rest of the team have quickly turned the focus to the Rams.

"We're looking forward to it," da Silva said. "They're a good team, good program, so we've got to make sure that we're locked in."

--Field Level Media