Oct. 28, 2012
By Danny Mattie
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State basketball fans got their first glimpse of the new-look program on Sunday afternoon, as first-year head coach Larry Eustachy led the Rams to an 87-67 exhibition victory over NCAA Division II powerhouse Metro State.
Though the Rams’ play was a bit inconsistent at times, including 17 turnovers and just 60 percent shooting from the free-throw line for a team that ranked sixth nationally at the charity stripe in 2011-12, what the 3,141 on hand at Moby Arena did witness was Eustachy laying the foundation for what many believe could be a very special season for CSU hoops.
“We really would have made more free throws if we had practiced them,” said Eustachy referring to his staff’s constant focus on conditioning, physicality and rebounding since the opening of practice on Oct. 12. “We are building a foundation with defense and rebounding, what’s really important. We are going to miss shots that we normally would make, but I think we are going to get tougher and more physical.”
Fortunately for the Rams, they made enough shots down the stretch - many in transition - to pull away from a strong Metro State program that is ranked No. 5 in the Division II Bulletin preseason top-25 and No. 6 in the Basketball Times preseason top-20.
“(Metro State) was very good,” added Eustachy. “I was surprised at the end; I thought that the score didn’t really indicate just how hard that game was. They did not take a play off. We are a three of four right now, but we’ll get to an eight or a nine. I love the potential of this team.”
Colorado State was led by double-double performances from senior forwards Pierce Hornung and Greg Smith, who tied for team-high honors with 13 points each in the Rams’ balanced scoring attack. Hornung pulled down 13 boards to round out his double-double, while Smith added 10.
In all, 11 different players scored for Colorado State, including five players in double-figures scoring and eight players that notched six or more points in the contest. In addition to Hornung and Smith, senior guards Wes Eikmeier
(11 points) and Dorian Green
(10) joined sophomore guard Daniel Bejarano
in double-figures. Bejarano finished one rebound shy of a double-double, recording 10 points and nine boards, while classmate Jon Octeus posted nine points and three rebounds in his unofficial Moby Arena debut and senior center Colton Iverson
chipped in eight points and seven rebounds.
“I think that if you watch last year’s group compared to this year’s group, we’ve just got a lot of guys off the bench,” added Eustachy. Jon (Octeus) was effective and Daniel (Bejarano) was effective. All the way down to Joe (De Ciman) and it just goes to show you the depth of the team. Right now we have a lot of depth.”
“(Coach Eustachy) wants us to play as fast as we can,” said Smith of the Rams’ transition game. “He feels that we should be one of the fastest teams out there, and that would allow us to win more games. We’re going to try to push the ball out there as quick as we can to try to get more opportunities to score and then get back on defense, and force turnovers and get rebounds, to get running.”
The Rams showed glimpses of Eustachy’s vision throughout the game, outrebounding the Roadrunners 53-29, and forcing 10 turnovers. But Metro State kept the game within reach for most of the contest by forcing the Rams’ into those 17 turnovers of their own.
“We are not a physically tough team right now and we showed that with the turnovers,” added Eustachy. “But I just love the potential. I’m encouraged.”
Added Eikmeier: “A lot of it was just the first game. Putting the group together and putting our jerseys on and getting out and doing the whole game day routine. You have to get the game-legs back and get used to being out there when the lights come on. Coach said it best at the end of the game, that we showed a lot of room for improvement. We are capable of a lot higher-quality of play.”
The Rams will return to the practice court this week with an eye toward improvement. CSU opens the regular season at home on Nov. 9, hosting the Montana Grizzlies at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena.
Season ticket packages and single-game tickets are on sale now by calling 1-800-491-RAMS, online at CSURams.com, or in person at the McGraw Athletic Center ticket office.