WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Stephens, who helps cover Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip off between the two teams is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens
The Rams are 19-3 and 6-3 in the league. As of late, what has this team been doing well?
Colorado State has done a much better job of having each player realize what he’s good at. If you look at Tiel Daniels, he’s starting to utilize more of his strength. In the loss to
Wyoming, there was a point in the first half where he had an easy dunk had he just gone up with the ball after catching it in the post. Instead, he puts it on the floor and has three guys surround him leading to a five-second violation.
Point guard John Gillon has continued to be a spark plug hitting big 3-pointers, Daniel Bejarano knows when to put on the gas and make big plays himself or pass the ball off, and J.J. Avila’s free-throw shooting is getting better. Colorado State’s success lately has been guys doing what they’re good at instead of trying to be players they’re not.
Two of the three conference losses have come on the road — against good teams like New Mexico and Boise State. What areas of the game did Colorado State struggle at in those losses, and in particular the 82-78 loss at Boise State on Jan. 27?
At New Mexico, it was just the offense in general, but at Boise State, the Rams got too comfortable. They got off to a poor start, overcame the deficit, then played most the game with a nice lead.
Queue Derrick Marks, the one Boise State player who killed them at Taco Bell Arena two seasons ago. He did it again by scoring 28 points Jan. 27. CSU let him do what he wanted on the floor and it killed any momentum the Rams had.
Scoring 78 points should be enough to win a college basketball game, but Colorado State’s defense had a rare breakdown. Of course, the late technical (regardless whether it was warranted or not) against coach Larry Eustachy played a big role in momentum, leading to a four-point possession for the Broncos. Colorado State lost that game by four points.
In the first game against Wyoming, J.J. Avila had 23 points but no other Ram scored in double figures. Who needs to play better Wednesday?
Daniel Bejarano will be the main guy. He’s Colorado State’s emotional leader and in past Border Wars at Moby Arena has shown the ability to knock down big shots. In the loss to the Cowboys this season, he had only four points and was 1 of 6 from the field.
I also want to see Daniels do more. I don’t care so much about his scoring – most of that comes at the free-throw line – but he needs to be more effective on the glass. He had three rebounds against Wyoming on Jan. 7 and he averages five. That’s not a huge variation from the norm, but Daniels is coming off a 10-rebound game Saturday against Fresno State.
What will be some of the key match-ups Wednesday night will you be keeping your eye on?
Again, we come back to Daniels. He needs to be able to hold his ground and not get in foul trouble, especially if matched up against Larry Nance Jr.
In the Rams’ win against San Diego State, J.J. O’Brien constantly backed down Daniels in the post and got whatever he wanted and he’s nowhere near the player Nance is. Him and Stanton Kidd will likely match up against Nance.
And then on the perimeter, I’m not so interested in one-on-one matchups; I just want to see what kind of looks Wyoming gets on 3-point attempts by Riley Grabau and Josh Adams. They were a combined 0 of 9 from deep in the last meeting and I can’t imagine they don’t fare better Wednesday.
How do you see this game unfolding, and who ultimately wins?
I picked Colorado State last time because the game was at Moby Arena and how’d that turn out? Given this game is up at the Arena-Auditorium, I have to give the edge to Wyoming (don’t worry, Colorado State fans, I’m always wrong on these things).
Granted, Colorado State had a cold shooting night back on Jan. 7 and will likely have more of a hot hand Wednesday. I feel the Cowboys are the best team the Rams have played on the road this season, even if RPI favors Boise State. It’s going to be a hostile environment. If Colorado State can escape with a win, it will be a season-defining performance.
Cowboys game day
Game: Colorado State (19-3 overall, 6-3 Mountain West) at Wyoming (18-4, 7-2)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
TV: MW Digital Network (online only)
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com