What a ride it’s been.
This season’s Colorado State Rams basketball team may be the best in the 110-year history of the sport at the school, as the team is currently the 22nd-best squad in the nation and 21-5 overall.
They enter Saturday’s nationally-televised contest hosting the No. 16 New Mexico Lobos (22-4, 9-2 MW), putting everything on the line this afternoon in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Colorado State already lost one game this week to the UNLV Runnin Rebels in another failed road comeback, and back-to-back losses to the Lobos today would mean losing their ranking and their 27-game home win streak, as well as ending their hopes for the regular season Mountain West Conference title.
The Rams understand what’s on the line and they’ll be ready to go this afternoon, at home, in front of 8,745 Moby Maniacs.
If they’re not, they’ll get eaten by the Lobos.
New Mexico has won five of their last six games in conference, losing only to the UNLV Runnin Rebels in Las Vegas two weeks ago. They’ve been winning with dominant defense, allowing only 56.8 points per game, while Kendall Williams has been going off offensively.
Over the last six games, Williams has averaged 10 points, five assists and 3.5 rebounds per, and many other teammates have stepped up as well. In their most recent win over the Boise State Broncos, four Lobos scored in double digits; they’re incredibly talented all over the court.
The Rams look to bounce back today, and the green and gold will need a total team effort to earn a victory and tie the Lobos for first in the Mountain West.
CSU’s at their best when all five senior starters are clicking, and it’s been a theme this season at home.
On Wednesday, Colton Iverson put up a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the Rams were out-rebounded for the first time all season, and only two starters scored 10 or more points. If four or more of the five starters score in double digits today, it bodes well for Colorado State’s chances.
Pierce Hornung has to out-work everyone for rebounds and put-backs, Greg Smith needs to be selective on his shots and get to the rim whenever possible. Dorian Green must remember he’s the go-to guy down the stretch, at the free throw line and from outside, while Iverson just has to do what he’s been doing all season, go beastmode in the paint.
More importantly than scoring, the Rams have to get back to their roots: relentlessly rebounding the ball.
They’re the best in the nation at hitting the boards, and their 31 rebounds Wednesday night were 11 less than an average game this year. Grabbing those rebounds on the offensive end leads to extra possessions – something Colorado State has capitalized on many times – and on the defensive end, it kills the opponents’ hopes of scoring.
The Rams don’t block the ball or steal it very often, but limiting scoring attempts by rebounding with extraordinary effort seems to be their best chance of winning.
What today brings is the biggest game in possibly the history of the program, at least in the regular season.