WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan in Fort Collins. Wyoming plays at Colorado State at 5 p.m. today at Moby Arena.
Look for Q&As with beat writers of Wyoming’s conference foes throughout the rest of the season.
Question: What are the biggest differences or changes with the team this season with first-year coach Larry Eustachy compared to how things were with former coach Tim Miles?
Answer: Defense, defense, defense. When Miles arrived in 2007, he also wanted to build CSU as a defensive power, but he quickly realized that there wasn’t really anyone on the team who could shoot the ball that season outside of Marcus Walker. Instead, CSU had to find ways to score points and as the years went on and Miles recruited better talents to Fort Collins, coaching shooters paid off.
Eustachy is all about defense and rebounding. Call it luck of the draw if you will, but having five seniors as his starters made this easier. We all knew the scoring ability of guys like Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green, but this year we’re seeing them as more complete players. Look at Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung. Both of them do most of their work inside on both ends, but almost never get in foul trouble because they’ve been coached defensive positioning.
No team has out-rebounded the Rams all season.
Q: Describe the impact 6-foot-10 Iverson has made, and how have other players benefited from it.
A: He’s been everything. In five years covering CSU, it’s never had a true big man. Andy Ogide and Will Bell were both undersized at center. Iverson is the first real active center for the Rams since Jason Smith, now with the New Orleans Hornets.
He doesn’t have much range, but it’s hard to deny his turnaround hook or pivoting for a layup. His free-throw percentage is at a career-best 63.6 (though it’s dropped dramatically since December) and the best part about his game is the ability to pass the ball. It makes double-teaming him risky because he can find the open man.
Q: Senior forward Pierce Hornung has been the glue-guy for the Rams the last few years. Is he still that type of player, or has his role changed?
A: He’s still the guy who leads CSU on the glass, even standing six inches shorter than Iverson, and though his points per game are higher, definitely making him the most balanced, I almost feel Green has become the player who holds everything together. Green doesn’t let an off-night shooting the ball prevent him from having a quality game; he still distributes and when he needs to will hit a big shot.
For instance, I was at the Fresno State game and I was amazed he had 17 points. Only three field goals, but steadily went to the line to make 10 free throws.
Q: What have teams done this season to beat CSU, or at least make it struggle?
A: Shoot the ball well. Yeah, it sounds obvious, but it’s true, especially if one or two players carry a team.
At San Diego State, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames scored the Aztecs’ first 18 points of the game and in overtime, Chase Tapley had 12 of his 19.
At New Mexico, it was the Tony Snell show; Spencer Dinwiddie at Colorado. Even when CSU took care of then-No. 23 UNLV at Moby Arena, the only thing standing in the Rams’ way of a blowout was Anthony Marshall, who scored 21.
When one player goes off, the Rams are in trouble.
Q: What has made Moby Arena such a great home-court advantage for the Rams over the last couple of seasons, and what does Wyoming have to do to give it a chance to win?
A: Moby only holds 8,745, but is built for sound a lot better than you’d expect with a quick glance up at the rafters. It echoes and when students pack the place, it can be deafening. You have to credit Miles, too, for making people want to watch CSU basketball. I was a sophomore at CSU during his first season and I could show up 15 minutes before tipoff for front row seats – the culture has changed. This is now an event.
I think Wyoming just has to not come in overwhelmed by the environment. The Cowboys witnessed a sellout last time they were in Fort Collins, so they know what to expect. A little Leonard Washington wouldn’t hurt, either.
CSU has won 25 consecutive at home, but did you know the previous two longest winning streaks at Moby were 14 games in 1990 and 2003? And guess who ended both? Wyoming. Pokes might have some history on their side.