ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — In the semifinals of the Paradise Jam against Creighton, the Colorado State Rams could do no wrong.
For about the first 23 minutes on Monday, with the tournament championship on the line, very little went right for the Rams.
But then a switch flipped in dominant and dramatic fashion. After falling behind big early in the second half, Colorado State absolutely decimated Northeastern the rest of the way. The result was a 71-61 victory and a shiny new trophy as the Rams were crowned champions of the 22nd annual Paradise Jam.
CSU (6-0) trailed by 20 less than three minutes into the second half but rolled the Huskies the rest of the way, putting together the second-largest comeback in program history. This group of Rams is quite familiar with that list, as they put together the largest comeback in team history (26 points) last season at San Diego State.
“That’s one thing — this team will never quit,” CSU coach Niko Medved said. “They’re a competitive group. They will never quit. It’s not in their DNA. It’s not who they are as people. It’s not who we are as a team. You don’t want to make a habit of coming out of the gates like that, but I think it really shows their character and shows who they are. Just a great response from our guys when really that was as poor of a first half as we’ve played in a long time.”
Colorado State trailed 36-20 at halftime, and Northeastern promptly opened the second half with a 10-4 spurt that pushed the Huskies lead to 44-24 with 17 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
Over the next 14 minutes, however, the Rams were untouchable, reeling off an incredible 38-6 run that gave CSU a 12-point lead with 3:14 remaining. David Roddy scored 17 of those points, at one point accounting for 10 consecutive CSU points. By the time Isaiah Stevens capped the 38-6 assault with a 3-pointer, the fight had been thoroughly eliminated from the Huskies.
Roddy posted consecutive career-high scoring efforts with a pair of 30-plus point games during the first two games of the tournament and was every bit as good on Monday, finishing 10-for-13 from the field and 6-for-7 at the free throw line while recording 27 points and seven rebounds. Stevens finished with 13 points and eight assists with only one turnover, giving him 19 assists and only one turnover in nearly 72 minutes over the final two games of the tournament.
Stevens and Roddy were named to the all-tournament team, with Roddy taking home MVP honors. Roddy shot a torrid 33-for-47 (.702) during the three-game tournament.
It was a triumphant celebration afterward at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center, and the joy likely will continue during the long trip home on Tuesday before the Rams begin preparing for Saturday’s home date against Northern Colorado.
“It’s a long game. You can’t get down on yourself and start hanging your head just because you miss a few shots or mess up a couple rotations,” Stevens said. “That’s not exactly how we drew it up tonight. But when you do get punched in the mouth, you’ve got to find a way. You’ve got to find a way to respond. Lucky for us we still had 20 minutes of game left.
“At San Diego State and a couple other places, we’ve been in that position before. We never feel like we’re out of a fight. All we’ve got to do is string a couple stops together, get back to our bases, get back discipline, stay sound, and then shots started falling. And from there, it was confidence.”
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