Men's basketball recap: CSU downs Denver, 79-75
Jan. 11, 2012
By Zach Balside
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Jesse Carr scored seven points on seven made free throws Wednesday night against Denver, but it was his last three that mattered most.
Carr sunk three free throws in the last 22 seconds of regulation as CSU (11-4) defeated Denver (13-4) at Moby Arena.
The junior guard missed his last attempt with five seconds remaining, but snagged the offensive board calmly and passed to Greg Smith to run out the clock.
The win gives the Rams their sixth in a row and their sixth consecutive at Moby. Also, the Rams are off to their second consecutive 11-4 start, after matching that record in the first fifteen games of last season.
Eleven non-conference wins is the most that CSU has recorded during Head Coach Tim Miles' tenure, and the Rams are now 3-0 against other Colorado Division I schools with two matchups against Air Force remaining.
"I think we kind of expected the success we're having," junior guard Wes Eikmeier said. "That tough schedule we had at the beginning of the year, those couple of runs when we were playing Stanford, Duke, and Northern Iowa on the road, that was good preparation for successful stretches like this.
"We did a good job in practice, and that is a good testament to the leadership that we have. We have to keep it up to stay successful in conference."
CSU took a seven-point lead into halftime after strong opening performances by Will Bell (nine points, six rebounds) and Eikmeier (10 points, two steals).
Denver scored 10 of the first 16 points in the second half to bring CSU's lead to three with 16:15 remaining. The Rams stormed back, and by the 10:17 mark they had a 10-point advantage.
Defensively, CSU took a jab when both Bell and Pierce Hornung got into foul trouble in the second half. Ultimately, both ended up fouling out, Bell with 7:42 remaining and Hornung at the 3:01 mark.
The Rams were already playing with a limited roster, with sophomore guard Dwight Smith out with a broken nose.
"It felt like we were managing lineups and foul trouble all night," Miles said. "Of course, when we get into foul trouble like that and we're short without Dwight, that's what happens."
Without its two best low-post defenders, CSU's lead dropped to four with just over a minute remaining. However, the rest of the Rams were able to play stingy enough defense to keep the Pioneers at bay.
At 6-foot-6, Smith had to step up and play center after Bell and Hornung fouled out, an unusual position for the junior. But he managed to fill the role successfully while still scoring at a high pace.
"I think Greg just let it go and said `hey, let's go play'", Miles said. "He's done a really nice job. I thought he was excellent tonight."
Eikmeier finished with 22 points, shooting a perfect 10-for10 from the charity stripe. Smith added 17 to go along with seven rebounds, and Dorian Green scored 15. Mountain West play begins for the Rams on Saturday, as CSU takes on TCU (10-5) at Moby Arena.
The MW has had a successful start to the year as a whole, and Coach Miles knows the toughest part of the season lies ahead for his Rams.
"I think our guys have played well. I think that 11-4 is a good start to the year, but our league is going to be tough," Miles said. "It's better than ever. You keep saying that but the teams keep winning and doing good things."
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and will be televised on The Mtn.