Colorado State loses a heartbreaker in the Mountain West opener

Nico Carvacho owned UNLV on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-11 redshirt junior forward made 12-of-16 attempts from the field (75 percent) for a career-best 28 points and also led the Rams with 20 rebounds. The 20-20 performance is Carvacho’s second of the season and third of his career.

Despite Carvacho’s best efforts though, the Rebels were able to pull out the 78-76 victory at the Thomas and Mack Center, Wednesday night.

“That’s a gut punch. I hate it for those guys,” head coach Niko Medved said postgame. “I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. We came out played terrific half-court defense. I thought this was the best performance we had all year.”

With 0:33 remaining and the score tied at 76-76, senior guard J.D. Paige attempted a 3-point shot, which went long off the iron and was immediately picked up by Joel Ntambwe of the Rebels. On the Rebels’ ensuing possession, Amauri Hardy missed a mid-range jump shot for the win, but CSU failed to box out Cheikh Mbacke Diong, who made the game-winning layup after Carvacho was called for basket interference with only 1 second on the clock.

CSU freshman forward Adam Thistlewood then attempted to complete the full court pass like when Grant Hill connected with Christian Laettner in March, 1992. The long toss was never completed though, as the Rebels secured the home win by forcing one final turnover.

“We knew they were the best offensive rebounding team in the country and that would be an issue, and it was,” Medved said in a release. “That’s what really got us in the end. We just couldn’t come up with whatever. If we come up with one more rebound, we come out of here a winner. A tough, tough way to lose, but we’ve got to move on to the next.”

The road loss certainly stings for a Rams squad that shot 47 percent from the floor and led by as much as 11 in the game. But, when the game was on the line, CSU seemed to abandon what had been working on the offensive end for the majority of the night. In the final 5:00 of action, CSU only managed to score five points on 2-of-7 shooting, and missed four layups in the process. That is not how good teams successfully close out road games, and in the end, there were just too many small mistakes to overcome.

The Rams will look to end its four-game losing streak against Fresno State on Saturday night. Tipoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

PHOTO: Tony Villalobos-May