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Colorado State 54 – Wyoming 46

February 20, 2012

SO I gotta come clean. I was as disappointed as about anyone after the Boise State loss. The Rams had let a chance to garner a road win slip away in the final second. And sometimes I say things I shouldn’t to people within the basketball program, especially those for whom I have the utmost respect.

As a fan it hurts when the Rams lose. But put yourself in the shoes of the players and coaches. As i was told after the Boise game, “you have zero idea how much a loss like that hurts.”

And so I arrived 45 minutes prior to the Wyoming game wondering a little what kind of Ram team I might see.

Was I worried?

You bet.

But i was prepared to yell and scream and cheer the team on as best I could. And so were the rest of the Moby Faithful. And we were rewarded with a great win over rival Wyoming as the Rams overcame a 7-point halftime deficit to record a 54-46 victory.

It wasn’t the prettiest of games. It was the slowest paced game of the season. A mere 52 possession affair.

And it wasnt an easy game for players and fans. Because it seemed that every time the Rams were poised to make a run, the Cowboys would nail a crazy runner or a three-ball. A weaker team might have cracked. A less committed crowd might have withdrawn their support bit by bit.

But the Rams persevered and when Greg Smith nailed a three-ball with a little over 6 minutes to go they took their first lead and never looked back. Smith was to end the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds and Dorian Green chipped in 13. Wyoming sharpshooter Luke Martinez led all scorers with 15 points, all from beyond the arc.

Three Plays That Stood Out Down the Stretch

Play 1 – CSU has consecutive possessions where they turned the ball over after taking the lead. The game was taking on a feel of the finish last Saturday at TCU. Until Jesse Carr delivered a killer crossover dribble and drew a pair of free throws at the rim. He made both free throws giving the Rams a little breathing room.

Play 2 – Martinez was Wyoming’s main threat the entire second half, running off screens and shooting from beyond the arc. Down three in the final minutes he lost his man and was on his way to an open look. Except Pierce Hornung recognized it and managed to closeout just enough to make Martinez uncomfortable. It was the only time all game that a CSU big closed out on Martinez. He missed the shot and Hornung secured the long rebound.

Play 3 – Leading by 3 and late in the clock with about a minute to go, Greg Smith caught a pass and delivered a shot fake that disposed of WYO’s Leonard Washington. Smith then drove to the hoop where he was grabbed by the Pokes’ Jaydee Luster but still finished with a sweet finger roll. He finished the play by making the free throw and the Rams had a 6-point lead. Washington’s jock was found in Tie Siding.

Game, set, match with the way Rams were defending.

Defense, defense…

The Rams held Wyoming to 23% shooting in the second half. After giving up 14 points in the paint in the first half, they held Wyoming to 0 points in the paint for the first 19:30 of the second half. An amazing performance by the undersized trio of Will Bell, Greg Smith, and Pierce Hornung against bigger players like Leonard Washington and Adam Waddell! Washington had 32 in the first game in Laramie; last night he finished with 7. In the second half, Wyoming made 4 three-balls, 4 free throws, and 1 layup.

Wyoming did a great job shutting down Wes Eikmeier as Jaydee Luster harassed him on the perimeter and the WYO bigs were helping on any penetration. The Rams stayed patient, creating enough good looks to shoot 53% from the field for the game.

Cam the Ram

Cam 23 came to the game last night. Cam the Ram was positioned on a green carpet on the Moby Floor during player introductions. Cam the Ram pooped on the floor. Maybe they should have had him on the WYO side of the floor.

The Moby Environment

Everybody was on their game last night. The students were there early and in force. The blue hairs on the lower bowl were making noise. The cheerleaders and the Golden Poms were all over it. And then there was the band! Strong throughout the game, they delivered a virtuoso performance during the under 4 TO at game’s end. Led by Dancing Band Leader Joe Spina they brought the crowd to its feet as Joe delivered his passionate trademark dance from last year.

It was the best crowd in Moby in at least 10 years!

Post Game Notes

I shared something with our coach last night. Its something I respect about him more than anything else. Tim Miles is amazing at getting teams ready to play a game. I’m not talking x’s and o’s. Because those aren’t always enough. I’m talking about getting a team mentally ready to play winning basketball. CSU was coming off a par of heartbreaking losses to TCU and Boise State. They’ve reached the point in the season where legs are tired. And they’re a little beat up. But they came out scratching and clawing and played 40 minutes of spirited basketball. And rewarded a great crowd with a victory.

WYO’s Larry Shyatt faces similar challenges right now. His team has nearly zero bench firepower and he has to rely on playing his starters lots of minutes. And even though they didn’t win last night, no one can question their effort or focus. They were ready.

I asked Pierce Hornung about his follow dunk over Adam Waddell off a Wes Eikmeier miss. Pierce said he saw the ball, went after it, and dunked it. He is not a player that feels comfortable talking about his individual successes. To him it was just another play that helped the Rams get a win. As I was talking to him, Larry Shyatt wandered by and told him he wished he had 5 players just like him. Pierce responded with a simple “Thank you, sir”.

CSU brought out their basketball legends at halftime. One of my favorite players of recent years – Freddie Robinson – was there. I tracked him down after the game. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious. He introduced me to his infant son Royal. My favorite Freddie Robinson story took place down at Air Force way back when I was covering the Rams for Fred had fallen out of favor with Coach Dale Layer and hadn’t been playing. I was seated on press row and made eye contact with Freddie as he was taking the court for warmups. He wandered by and said “Hey. It looks like I’m finally out of the dog house and I’m gonna play.” We laughed.

One of the best moments post-game was seeing Tim Miles and Joe Spina giving each other a hug.

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