Colorado State Rams Can Beat Louisville Cardinals With Aggression

By Rich Kurtzman
Jaime Rhodes – USA Today Sports

Clear the floor, the Colorado State Rams are still dancing.

Dorian Green‘s gutsy performance was great and CSU controlled the glass in their second-round contest against the Missouri Tigers Thursday night to win 84-72.

It was Colorado State’s first NCAA Tournament win in 24 years, an amazing accomplishment for the group of senior starters that have given so much time and effort, leaving part of themselves on the hardwood every night.

The victory encapsulates who these Rams are; gritty, determined, aggressive and team-oriented.

Green’s aggression set the tone in the first half and it lasted throughout the game. The injured point guard played with a reckless abandon, attacking the hoop with drives, hitting layups, drawing fouls and making free throws.

“I just wanted to be aggressive tonight,” Green told reporters following the win. “It didn’t matter if we were playing Missouri or whoever, I just wanted to be aggressive from the beginning, but it feels good to be from Kansas and beat Missouri.”

Forward Greg Smith and backup point guard Jon Octeus followed Green’s lead, driving to the iron and drawing fouls, scoring buckets or both.

Center Colton Iverson bullied Missouri bigs for 13 rebounds in only 27 minutes of play before fouling out, and he was a major catalyst when it came to cleaning up the glass. The Rams were relentless rebounding the rock, dominating on the boards 42-19 when it was all said and done. CSU didn’t have many opportunities for offensive boards in the first half, as they shot a spectacular 58 percent, but they did close out Mizzou possessions well by grabbing loose basketballs.

It was a theme throughout the game – just as it has been all season long – if a ball bounced off the iron, someone in green and gold was there to snatch it up.

That physicality was key, as was the Rams aggression on both ends of the floor. They’ll need to play the same way to beat the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals’ defense is demonstrative, running a full-court trap that confuses and frustrates ball-handlers. If you stop dribbling, they’ll simply rip the rock and fly to the hoop for a run-out. Offensively, that athleticism translates into drives for dunks and alley-oops, which makes Louisville difficult to slow down, let alone stop.

That’s where Colorado State’s aggression and physicality come into play.

Green’s got to be confident when bringing the ball up-court, and when he has an opportunity, getting to the rim will increase CSU’s chances. Iverson’s fight down low will be crucial on both ends; he needs to score in the paint and effect Cardinals’ players going to the hoop. He must stay out of foul trouble to maximize scoring, rebounding and defensive production; without Iverson, the Rams are lost.

Pierce Hornung‘s tenacity will be key as well; diving on the floor, bodying opponents and earning tip-ins on the offensive glass is what he’s known for, while Smith and even guard Wes Eikmeier have to chip in rebounding as well. And everyone on the floor must give all-out effort on the defensive end.

Head coach Larry Eustachy’s philosophy is for his team to give all their effort on every inch of the floor night-in, night-out; Colorado State must play that way to beat the incredibly talented Cardinals. If the Rams play their way, they certainly can win; don’t sleep on CSU.

Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino isn’t, as he told reporters Friday he may slightly alter his lineup “to get more rebounding in there.”

“Five seniors, No. 1 rebounding margin team in the country, I know Larry is a terrific coach,” Pitino said of CSU. “They have all the ingredients to be a great basketball team, and they are.”

Control the boards and you not only control the pace but the overall game.

A win for Colorado State would mean a massive upset and making the Sweet Sixteen, which is the deepest they’ve gone into the big dance in the 110-year history of the program.

It’s David versus Goliath and the Rams are the ones that seem to always have the rock.

CSU – Louisville tips off at 3:15 p.m. Mountain and will be televised on CBS.

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