March 6, 2010
By Alan Rakowski
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Junior forward Travis Franklin led all CSU players in scoring with 16 points as the Rams took down Utah, 76-67, on Senior Day Saturday afternoon at Moby Arena.
With the win, CSU clinched the fifth seed in the 2010 Conoco Mountain West Conference Championships, its highest seed in the conference tournament since 2000 when the Rams finished 8-6 in the conference and entered the tournament as the fourth seed. CSU (16-14, 7-9 MWC) also posted its first winning season since 2006-07 and registered its first sweep against Utah since 2005-06.
“I think we have shown progress,” Head Coach Tim Miles said. “I know our guys feel good about where we are at. The most wins in a decade; I am here to raise the bar.”
The Rams took a 5-4 lead in the contest at the 15:49 mark, and never trailed the rest of the game. Nine first-half points from Franklin helped send CSU into the locker room with a 35-27 advantage.
The Utes (14-16, 7-9 MWC), who will enter the tournament as the sixth seed as a result of the loss to the Rams, opened the second half on a 6-0 run and found themselves down just two early in the period. But the Rams countered with a 6-0 run of their own beginning at the 15:16 mark, and pushed their lead back up to nine midway through the half.
A lot of the energy the Rams exhibited on Saturday came from their seniors. Mame Bocar Ba recorded a career-high nine points, and Travis Busch and Mike Annese managed 12 and 7, respectively.
“It was a big day for all of us, not just seniors,” Bocar Ba said. “We have been waiting for this day for a long time.”
Five straight points by Utah freshman Marshall Henderson sparked a late run by the Utes that put them down only three, 64-61, with 5:22 left on the clock. But junior Andy Ogide converted 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch to fend off the scrappy Utes, who were without injured players David Foster and Kim Tillie.
Ogide finished with 10 points in the game, and also added seven boards. Freshman forward Greg Smith posted 10 points off the bench for CSU. Franklin shot 5-of-6 from the field en route to his team-high 16 points.
Chris Hines (12), Jay Watkins (15) and Henderson (18) scored in double figures for Utah.
The six seniors honored before Saturday’s regular-season finale were: Annese, Bocar Ba, Busch, Arin Dunn, Michael Lebsack and Harvey Perry.
The Rams will open the MWC tournament Thursday against San Diego State, who swept them in the regular season. But CSU is confident going into the game and looking to ride the momentum from Saturday’s win.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Miles said. “We want to go out and make a run. Our game plan will not change much.”
The Rams and Aztecs will face off Thursday at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. MT. The game will be simulcast on the Mtn. and CBS College Sports.