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Colorado State 79 – Denver 75

January 12, 2012

In what was expected to be a barnburner, the Rams of Colorado State held on to a narrow four-point victory over the visitors from Denver. With the win they claimed the unofficial Front Range 5 League title, adding to a recent and official Sun Bowl Invitational title won over the holidays in El Paso.

The Rams did what they had to do early and then survived serious foul trouble late.

They got some easy points in transition as their defense forced some careless Pioneer turnovers. They got some easy points on putbacks of missed shots. But most importantly, they executed solidly in the half court throughout the entire game while minimizing the number of empty possessions.

And they did it while only getting 20 minutes each out of Will Bell and Pierce Hornung because of foul issues. That meant that for a good portion of the final 10 minutes, the Rams played a 4-guard lineup with 6’6″ small forward Greg Smith manning the center spot and 6’2″ Dorian Green playing some power forward. Denver completely abused them on their offensive end but this group was able to score enough points on tough attacks at the rim and from the free throw line.

Wes Eikmeier led the Rams with 22, Greg Smith had 17, and Dorian Green had 15. The Rams shot over 90% from the free throw line, making 28-31 for the game. They struggled from outside the arc, making only 1-7.

The Pioneers were led by senior Brian Stafford who had 22, Chris Udofia with 15, and frosh Brett Olson with 12. They shot 62% from the field for the game and 55% from beyond the arc. They also made 34 trips to the free throw line. They abused CSU’s switching man-to-man by posting up Brian Stafford and Rob Lewis on smaller players and were fortunate that Lewis didn’t put away more free throws. But I have to think the Pioneers are disappointed today. They did just about everything you need to do to win on the road – make shots and get to the free throw line.

Player of the Game

The radio guys had Jesse Carr who had as good a floor game as you can have handling the ball. 0 Turnovers for the entire game with a lot of patience running the Rams through their sets. Jesse was a leading candidate until he missed a free throw with 4 seconds to go. which left the fianl margin at 4. Had he made the free throw, the final margin would have been 5. Which is the margin I predicted. So your miss made me wrong Jesse. I don’t like being wrong. So no Player of the Game to you.

That award goes to Greg Smith who delivered critical baskets from all over the floor. An early finger roll to get the scoring started, a dunk off a nice dish by Wes, a leaning banker from 10 that hung on the rim for an eternity before falling . A pull-up jumper, another driving banker, the Rams’ only 3-pointer in the second half. And 4-4 from the line along with 7 rebounds. But then he wrapped up the award through unselfish and strong play in the last few minutes while manning the center spot. That meant more screen setting and less looks at the rim. At the end of the game I yelled to him and gave him the big fist from my seat. He was all smiles.

Winners Galore

If you looked on the floor, there were a ton of Players of the Year from their prep days. DU featured Rob Lewis who was 2A Player of the Year a few years ago and Brett Olson who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado last season from Highlands Ranch. CSU has two Mr. Basketballs from Nebraska (Wes Eikmeier, Greg Smith), Jesse Carr was 3A Player of the Year in Nebraska, and Pierce Hornung was the 4A Player of the Year at Ralston Valley.

Pre-game at Fuzzy’s

My first trip there. And its a great place to go prior to the game (and after I hear). Good tacos, comfortable atmosphere, and lots of good Ram fans. Fun to see friends Rob Russell and Mike Rowe (with his significant other Traci). And other great fans like the Carpenters, Ben Morgan, J.T.

I hear they have really good Margaritas. I wouldn’t know.

Final thoughts

The Rams concluded the out of conference port on of their schedule 11-4 and their RPI currently stands at 27 nationally. The win over Denver was huge because it gave them their first win over a Top 50 program. They have positioned themselves as a possible at-large team for the NCAA’s but they will have to get at least 2 wins over UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State and take care of business over the other MWC teams.

A tall task given the depth and quality of the Mountain West this season. But it looks like they’ll at least be in the conversation.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 3:13 pm

    You suck!!

  2. Marty permalink
    January 13, 2012 1:47 am

    Great analysis Swoll…I enjoy reading your thoughts…even handed, funny, and honest.

    All the things you need to have to make for a great read!

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