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Colorado State 87 – Metro State 67

October 29, 2012

With a little bit of squeaking from the rust of the off-season, the curtain was raised on what is one of the most anticipated seasons in Colorado State basketball.

And the Rams debuted under new Head Coach Larry Eustachy with a solid 87-67 win over the visiting Roadrunners of Metro State University. They were led by senior forwards Pierce Hornung and Greg Smith who both finished with double-doubles. Hornung finished the game with 13 and 13 and Smith with 13 and 10. Senior guards Dorian Green finished with 11 and Wes Eikmeier with 10. And sophomore transfer Daniel Bejarano came off the bench to nearly deliver the third double-double with 10 and 9.

But the story of the game was thrust CSU showed that they are ready to take another big step forward in the college basketball world.

No longer will the Rams be undersized. Minnesota transfer big Colton Iverson ate space in the middle, played effectively high screen and roll defense, and finished at the rim. Backup Gerson Santo showed a nice shooting touch and a willingness to mix it up in the paint. Their presence made room for Smith and Hornung to do their stuff around the rim.

No longer will the Rams suffer from a lack of depth. The starting lineup features 5 experienced seniors but they brought enough quality off the bench such that they may be a more athletic squad with the second unit on the floor. Yes the Rams will miss guard Jesse Carr, out for the season with a torn ACL. but newcomer Jon Octeus showed athleticism in a baseline finish at the rim and played solid pressure defense on the perimeter. Freshman Joe DeCiman looked nervous in the first half but showed his athleticism in the second with a fine finish at the rim and a shot block. And then there was Bejarano.

Sometimes you look for a guy to deliver a spark off the bench. In Bejarano’s case, he was more like a flash fire. The 2-time Arizona Prep Player of the Year showed he was more than a scorer by hustling at both ends of the floor. His impact on the game was massive as he nailed a couple of three-balls, scored on a putback, and grabbed numerous rebounds in traffic.

And when you realize that Dwight Smith who was a key contributor last season is the 11th man right now, you see how deep Into the bench CSU can go.

No longer will the Rams struggle when their opponent puts full-court pressure. Metro State threw some pretty salty pressure on the Rams and an early turnover led to an immediate timeout by Eustachy. He had prepared them in practice and wanted them to attack it. The Rams started to play a little tic-tac-toe with one of the attacks resulting in a thunderous dunk by Iverson.

Still lots for the Rams to work on. 17 turnovers were about double where the team needs to be an a night-in, night-out basis. Colton Iverson was especially guilty inside the paint. A Lot of missed easy finishes at the rim, the biggest culprit being Greg Smith. A lot of missed free throws, the biggest culprit being Dorian Green who shot 2-7. And a few unnecessary fouls, the biggest culprit being Jon Octeus who picked up 5 in only 13 minutes of action.

But any questions about whether the team would respond successfully to a new coach have been answered as the Rams showed some vintage Eustachy style, dominating the glass and playing aggressive and sticky defense especially on the perimeter.

It’s getting better time as the Rams get set to travel to New Orleans for a closed-door scrimmage against C-USA member Tulane next weekend. That will serve as the final preparation for the season opener vs. Montana at Moby on November 9.

Post-game Jibberish

Always nice to catch up with some of the players.

Wes Eikmeier took a shot to the nose with about 5 minutes left in the game. He fell to the floor like a prizefighter who had taken a huge punch. I greeted him with a “Down Goes Eikmeier, Down Goes Eikmeier.”

I felt obligated to challenge Dorian Green to a free-throw shooting contest after his ridiculous 2-7 performance tonight. Dorian wanted no part of me.

A few seconds later I congratulated Greg Smith on his game but asked him what the heck all of those misses at the rim were all about. We laughed about it and then Dorian accused him of missing more layups than he missed free throws. Nice.

I introduced myself to newcomers Gerson Santo and Jon Octeus. Both well-spoken young men. Octeus wanted my Spyder sweater to go with his Spyder gloves. No dice.

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