Rams on verge of making history
Jan. 3, 2013
By Gary Ozzello
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Larry Eustachy’s one, simple post-game comment following Colorado State’s 62-58 win over visiting UTEP last Wednesday night spoke volumes.
“I think this might be the best defensive team I’ve had as a coach,” he noted.
That speaks volumes from a coach who has won more than 400 games, and been named “Coach of the Year” in three different conferences – and someone who also earned national coach of the year honors.
Since the day last spring he arrived on campus, Eustachy has preached defense and rebounding. His talented Rams’ team has listened intently.
Colorado State enters Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against St. Bonaventure riding a six-game win streak. The Rams currently lead the nation in rebounding margin (14.2), and rank among the national leaders in fewest points allowed, surrendering just 59.2 points per game.
Eustaschy knows the Rams will need both of those items in full supply Saturday when Colorado State plays host to the Bonnies, the 2012 Atlantic-10 Conference champions. St. Bonaventure is averaging more than 70 points per game, and is led by swingman Chris Johnson’s 13.7 points per game, one of three Bonnies to score in double figures. Forward Demitrius Conger is averaging 13.5 points per game and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds per game, while top reserve Eric Mosley, a guard, scores 10.5 points per game.
St. Bonaventure enters the game 7-5 following a loss to Iona in the team’s most recent outing Dec. 31.
The Rams, meanwhile, are riding a six-game win streak. Colorado State opened the season 6-0, dropped road games at Colorado and Illinois-Chicago, and have rebounded with six more wins in row.
Just as impressive as the 12-2 start is Colorado State’s 21-game homecourt win streak – the longest in Moby Arena history since the building opened in 1966, and second longest in school history. Legendary coach Jim Williams guided CSU to 22 consecutive homecourt wins covering the 1960-62 seasons, a time when the Rams held court in South College Gym.
Plus, the 21-game homecourt streak is fourth longest in the nation.
Plenty of other history currently resides in Moby Arena as well. Colorado State’s 12-2 record through 14 games marks the Rams’ best start through since 1997-98, and is only bested by the 1952-53 squad that opened the year 13-1 en route to the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance.
With a win Saturday against the Bonnies, Eustachy’s squad can extend the program record for non-conference victories in a season. The team’s 12th non-conference victory on Wednesday night over UTEP eclipsed the old mark of 11 set four times in program history (2011-12, 2005-06, 2002-03 and 1997-98).
The Rams’ sixth win in a row came during a challenging game against UTEP. Colorado State saw a double-digit lead shrink to a one-point deficit late in the game, before rallying for the four-point win behind an 18-point performance by forward Greg Smith, and 17 from center Colton Iverson. Guard Wes Eikmeier added 12 points, while forward Pierce Hornung led the Rams with 10 rebounds.
Smith iced the game with a pair of late free throws.
But it was Colorado State’s defense which paved the way for the win.
Colorado State limited UTEP to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field and limited top scorer Konner Tucker to just three points.
“I think that was the kind of game that we needed,” Eustachy said following the game.
Now, Eustachy and the Rams turn their focus to St. Bonaventure, then have a week off before beginning conference play.
Nearly a week ago, Eustachy challenged his team, saying the Rams’ final two nonleague games would be treated as conference encounters, beginning with the game against UTEP.
In his book the Rams passed the first test with the victory over UTEP, and now face St. Bonaventure with four players scoring in double figures and a fifth on the doorstep.
Iverson leads the Rams by scoring 14.7 points, while Smith is second, 12.4. Guard Dorian Green averages 12.2 points per game and leads the team with 51 assists, while Eikmeier is averaging 10.1 points per game. Hornung nearly joins the group, averaging 9.8 points per game while leading the Rams by with 9.9 rebounds per contest. Iverson ranks just behind Hornung at 8.7 boards per game.
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