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Colorado State 60 – Denver 53

November 22, 2012

The Rams continued their winning ways as the scratched, clawed and pounded their way to a gritty win over a Denver Pioneer team that was committed to defending their own court.

It was far from pretty on the offensive end for either team, as the Rams shot 38% from the field overwhelming the Pioneers who shot 29% on the game and a measly 5-29 from behind the arc. Part of that was cold shooting. Part of that was the Rams half-court offense looking motionless at times. And part of it was defensive effort.

The game tilted in the Rams favor late in the first half on a 13-2 run that was finished on a steal by Daniel Bejarano and runout layup by Green. They went in at the break leading 28-20 and the Pioneers never got closer than 5 points in the second half. While the Rams missed a lot of free throws that would have resulted in a larger final margin, the guard tandem of Green, Eikmeier, and Jon Octeus played with poise down the stretch

The Rams were led by steady-handed guard Dorian Green and transfer big Colton Iverson with 16 each. Green’s came from inside and out and Iverson’s came at the rim and the free throw line. Iverson grabbed 13 boards to complete his first double-double in a Ram uni. Wes Eikmeier added 13 and Pierce Hornung was his usual excellent self with 8 points and 11 rebounds.

Senior Chase Hallam led Denver with 19 points and Royce o’Neale added 16 but the real story was the lack of production from the Pioneers two big guns, Chris Udofia and Brett Olson. Olson shot 1-9 from the field with his only field goal coming in the final two minutes. And Udofia scored a layup in the last 25 seconds of the game for his only two points.

And make no mistake about it. It was the Rams work on the defensive end and on the glass and their willingness to try to force the pace, trademarks of a vintage Larry Eustachy team, that led to the first road win of the season.

Defensively, the Rams did a great job of taking away any of the back door cuts that DUs Princeton-style offense loves to run for easy layups. They did a great job of taking away the three-balls from the corner spots that DU makes with regularity. And Udofia had very few opportunities to get to the rim off the bounce from the elbow.

On the glass, they compiled a 43-28 edge with Iverson and Hornung leading the way. Octeus and Bejarano came of the bench to combine for 10 between them. DU made a strong commitment to matching the Rams on the glass, more than I’ve seen in previous years, but CSU did a great job gathering the many misses.

One final thought…

The most important number of the night, courtesy of Pierce Hornung. He had his typical 94-foot game but when I asked him about it, he pointed to the scoreboard and said this:

“7. Thats the only number that matters.”

The Mask – Greg Smith had his nose broken in practice last week. He donned a mask and gave it his best but to say he struggled would be an understatement. He played with great energy and was solid defensively but it was obvious that his vision was impaired by the mask. A novice turnover led to an uncontested layup for DU and twice Smith knocked loose balls away from teammates. 5 on 5 sometimes looked like 4 on 6. But the point is that he played.

Cold shooting but some signs of hope offensively– The Rams have looked challenged offensively in this early part of the season. Their running a pretty basic motion offense which bogs down as they look to get the ball into the post. Combine that with some cold shooting and they look pretty ugly for stretches. That being said, Dorian Green showed life and Wes Eikmeier is starting to figure out how to hunt shots. EIkmeier was especially good in the second half as he heated up from the perimeter, scored at the rim on a lefty layup, nailed a short pull up baseline jumper and fed other teammates off the bounce. Green scored at the rim, on pull ups in the lane, and from beyond the arc.

Iverson’s near dwarf toss – So there was a point in the first half where Colton Iverson had a huge mismatch on the low block because of a switch. Colton knew it and was setting the defender up. He got his upper body in a position where he was about to take the DU defender for a ride as he dunked. The DU defender fouled him just prior to the move and Colton stopped at the whistle rather than going ahead with it. Had the play continued, Colton would have dunked and the DU player would have been airborne to about the third row.

Ram fans traveled well last night – First of all, kudos to the Athletic Department for setting things up with DU to easily get seats behind the CSU bench. It led to a solid and lively visiting crowd, led in cheers by none other than AD Jack Graham. From the player intros until the end of the game, Ram fans made their presence known and it was capped off when the team joined the fans in a rousing version of the fight song. Im not really good at estimating numbers but I’ll bet there were at least 1000 and they were the ones making the most noise.

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