Dec. 19, 2011
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Monday night was a night of big returns at Moby Arena. The CSU men’s basketball team returned to the court after a 12-day layoff for finals week, and the Rams were playing in their first home game since the team’s Dec. 30 victory over rival Colorado.
Monday night also saw the return of Pierce Hornung to the Rams’ lineup, after the junior forward missed six straight games while battling the effects of a concussion suffered in the third game of the season at Stanford.
Some would expect the Rams (6-4), and especially Hornung, to be a little rusty, but Colorado State’s offense appeared to be operating as well as they have all season en route to an 85-61 victory over the Texas Southern Tigers (1-8).
“It was a good win,” said Head Coach Tim Miles. “We hadn’t won in December. We hadn’t been on the floor in a long time…So I thought it was a good win. We came in took control of the game and when Pierce got in we got in a nice rhythm and roll and took control of the game.”
“I thought the rust was apparent in defensive talk and positioning,” said Miles. “We were out-of-sync early. That is where I noticed it.”
That’s where Hornung provided the spark the Rams were looking for. The junior forward, coming off the bench to a thunderous applause from the Moby faithful, immediately showed why he is so valuable to the squad. Within 2 minutes, 30 seconds of checking into the contest, Hornung had notched four rebounds – three offensive – blocked one shot, and tallied a quick six points, turning a 7-5 CSU deficit into a lead the Rams would never relinquish.
“Those are the things that we need; the things that switch the momentum,” said junior guard and leading scorer Wes Eikmeier of Hornung’ s spark. “He always plays like that and we expect that out of him.”
Hornung finished with seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while notching three assists, one block and three steals in 21 minutes of action.
“Watching that game I wouldn’t have wanted to play it without him,” added Miles of Hornung’s performance. “He’s a guy that brings a lot to the table. I know he’s got some pedestrian-like offensive stats, but when you look at the things he brings to the table with rebounding, extra shots and steals; he’s a good decision maker. He just brings a lot to the table for the team.”
The Rams also got a lot out of Eikmeier who tied a career mark with a game-high 25 points, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Dorian Green, Greg Smith and Kaipo Sabas also finished in double-figures scoring for the Rams. Green tallied 15 points, going 3-of-5 from distance, while Smith finished with 13 points (1-of-2 from three-point range) and Sabas tallied 10 points including a pair of treys.
Statistically, the Rams dominated the box score, shooting a better overall percentage (52.7 percent compared with 40.9 percent) and connecting at a clip of nearly 46 percent (11-of-24) from long range while holding the Tigers to a paltry 19 percent (4-of-21).
The Rams also outrebounded the Tigers by a 31-22 margin and dished out a 15 assists, the teams’ fifth straight game with double-digit assists. Texas Southern finished with just four assists, a season low for a Rams’ opponent, while committing 19 turnovers, a season-best for the CSU defense.
The Rams now turn their attention to another tough rivalry game, as the team prepares for Thursday’s matchup against 2011 NCAA tournament participants Northern Colorado at Butler-Hancock Pavilion in Greeley.
The Rams are looking for their first victory in the building in Miles’ third attempt.
“It’ll be a very important game Thursday,” added Miles. “We put them on an equal basis, just like we do any other rival. They’ve been good. They were in the NCAA tournament last year and we weren’t. Last time we were there, they stormed the floor. That’s a big game for them and a big game for us, and I’m looking forward to that matchup.”
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