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.
Wyoming (18-11 overall, 4-11 Mountain West) hosts Colorado State (22-7, 9-5) at 8 tonight at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Question: Air Force’s Michael Lyons, New Mexico’s Kendall Williams and Boise State’s Derrick Marks have had huge games the last couple of weeks against the Rams. Is there a big concern about Colorado State’s perimeter defense, or do you chalk it up to three very good players having very good games?
Answer: I only get concerned when CSU is playing on a Saturday. The Rams held all UNLV and Fresno State players to less than 20 the past two Wednesday, so there must be some voodoo going on.
But really, I don’t see what CSU is missing in terms of on-ball defense. Williams and Lyons each had a hand in their faces on most shots, but they were allowed to catch the ball. The Rams have really focused on “no catch” defense the last week or so, and against Fresno State it worked, as they denied Kevin Olekaibe the ball in the second half to shut him down.
It is hard to really figure out what else CSU can do. Even Larry Shyatt noted it Monday that opponents were just having big games. No rhyme or reason.
Q: Is the team reeling some having lost three of its last four games, and is there some concern among the coaches and players coming down the stretch?
A: I think the only people concerned about what’s happening to CSU exist outside of the locker room. If there is some worry among the players and coaches, they are doing a very good job of not showing it.
I asked Wes Eikmeier on Monday why CSU did not give its best effort against New Mexico and Boise State – something the Rams openly admit to – with so much on the line. He did not have an answer.
There’s an appearance that the Rams are reeling, yes, but with five senior starters, you have to assume we see a kink in the line soon.
Q: With the league so good this season, who do you think makes the MW First Team for the Rams?
A: Colton Iverson and, maybe, Dorian Green. I have only started filling out my bracket, so I haven’t looked too closely at conference stats only (which are all you’re supposed to consider), but Iverson’s consistent near-double-double performances have been huge for the Rams. It is amazing what a true big man can do.
I say “maybe” on Green because of how many good guards, point or combo, there are in this league. Michael Lyons, Kendall Williams, Jamaal Franklin, Derrick Marks, Anthony Drmic … the list goes on.
Q: Wyoming was no match for Colorado State inside in last month’s game in Fort Collins. Do you expect the Rams to attack the Cowboys much of the same way or take a different approach?
A: I don’t see much point of changing it up, especially with the injuries Wyoming is dealing with inside. Even if Leonard Washington can play, how effective will he be?
What I’m interested to see is if CSU tries to get Pierce Hornung going. I still think he’s one of the top three finishers around the basket in the Mountain West, but he just has not been shooting the ball lately. I don’t mean not making shots, I mean he has not attempted many. Seven points in the last three games and it is taking a toll. I would expect him to try and get hot early.
Q: With all of Wyoming’s injury issues, do the Cowboys have a chance to pull the upset and if so, what do they need to do?
A: With how teams have been playing lately against CSU, I don’t see why not. You look at Fresno State, which played the Rams very tough, everyone expected Tyler Johnson to be the top ‘Dog (terrible pun, I know), but it was Olekaibe breaking out.
Derrious Gilmore can be a serious threat from the perimeter, I think he’ll need to have a similar performance to what happened during the Border War in Fort Collins for Wyoming to pull this one off.
That being said, this is a CSU team playing with a lot of purpose right now. To watch the Rams come out flat would baffle me – but it would not be the first time that happened.