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“Großer Mann” Means “Big Man” – Mbemba Ties Career High

Rams take commanding victory over San Jose, bigs dominate
Lauren Mascardo
Photo by Lauren Mascardo of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

Photo by Lauren Marscado of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

In Vienna, Austria, the common language is German. Rashaan Mbemba, a 6-foot-7, 250lb forward from Vienna, knows this well. He tied his career high as a Ram, (set against Creighton), with 13 Friday night.

The 66-47 victory for Colorado State over San Jose State also had Mbemba finishing 5-of-5 along with 3 rebounds and 1 block. He produced those numbers in only 15 minutes of play.

The freshman, played the last two games exceptionally well, finishing above plus 10 in both matchups between Boise and San Jose. Game by game, Mbemba’s confidence continues to grow.

“I have restricted minutes, so I try to do everything I can on the court when I’m on the court, and it worked out today obviously.” Mbemba said.

Mbemba came off the bench early in the matchup, at the 15:32 mark. Just one minute later, he was already scoring with a vintage hook shot in the paint. The Rams finished the first half shooting 55% on 15-of-27, leaving the Spartans stumped, closing the half only 32.8% on 8-of-29.

The Spartans began the second half down 19-39, however by 13:29, the lead narrowed 38-48.

That’s when experience takes over.

On a quieter night offensively for Isaiah Stevens, scoring 9 points, he chose to play pass first, dishing 11 of the 24 assists for the Rams. Josiah Strong notched 7 points and on defense Nique Clifford collected 11 rebounds.

Joel Scott, who finished the first half with 3 points, began his familiar tear on offense in the second. Missing only one shot, Scott finished with 12 points on 6-of-10. Every single bucket from Scott was found in the paint.

Part of Scott’s success was the fact the matchup against San Jose was one of the times CSU was truly the bigger team.

“We know we had little bit of a physicality advantage inside, so we definitely want to impose our will, and that goes with any team in the Mountain West,” Scott Said. “I feel like on this team we’ve got some of the best bigs and finishing guards, so we always want to play inside out.”

The Rams held the Spartans to just 33% in the contest playing into the size advantage. The Spartans threw up 58 shots, finding the basket only 19 of those times. Defense wins championships they say.

“A big part of our identity is trying to be physical on the defensive end and hold teams under those marks. Tonight, we got that done in the second half,” Scott said. “Our defense held strong, and we forced them into tough shots late in the shot clock. That’s what got us the chance to run a little bit more and get our offense rolling.”

Colorado State brought their win streak to four in the victory Friday. However, it’s time to consider the future of CSU basketball. The final year for Stevens, Scott, Strong, Cartier, Palmer, and potentially Clifford is coming to a close – someone will need to step up.

Coach Niko Medved sees the journey ahead for a freshman player like Mbemba – who’s been through the gauntlet already. After battling through injuries and slowly becoming more comfortable on the court, the work is paying off.

“He went through some injury stuff and missed a lot of practice and some time, and I think what you’re seeing from him now is he’s been in practice every day; he’s been playing now consistently, and sometimes freshman go through a freshman wall so to speak,” Medved said, “now you hit this time in February, hopefully he’s kicking it back into gear and you see more games, his confidence is building back up and yeah he was big for us tonight.”

Mbemba, it seems, feels the same. The night for him is only a small piece of his career with the Rams. As tournament play approaches, his mind is set on higher goals.

“Obviously I’m happy for tying my career high but at the end of the day it’s just a game and we have to focus on the next game.” Mbemba said.

The humility from Mbemba is exactly what the Rams need to be successful as play continues. His ability to produce such high numbers in short periods of time makes him a valuable resource off the bench now, and as a starter in seasons to come.

The Rams, 19-5 overall (7-4 in MW), play 7 more games in the regular season, before the arrival of the Mountain West Tournament March 13. Their next matchup is set 7:00 p.m. Feb. 13 at San Diego State.

The Aztecs, currently 18-6 overall, (7-4 MW), are undefeated in their 11 games at home. Meanwhile the Rams have found just one win away from Moby in conference play.