Here is my question-and-answer session with Kelly Lyell, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip off is at 4 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Follow on Twitter: @KellyLyell
At 12-8 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West, is this where you thought the Rams would be at this point of the season?
I thought the Rams would be a game or two ahead of where they are right now. I figured they’d still have Gian Clavell and his 20-plus points a game, as well as a favorable schedule to start Mountain West play with home games early against UNLV, San Diego State and Utah State and only one tough road game in the first seven in the opener at Boise State.
How has Colorado State responded and played since losing senior guard Gian Clavell, its leading scorer at the time, to season-ending hand and shoulder injuries?
The Rams have responded surprisingly well to Clavell’s loss, battling Kansas State right up to the buzzer just two days after learning he was out for the rest of the year and taking Boise State down to the wire, as well, in the MW opener on the road two weeks later. They lost a lot of offensive firepower when Clavell went down, but they seem to have stepped up some on the defensive end, knowing they won’t have his points to fall back on.
How has Emmannuel Omogbo responded, as well as the team, after he lost his parents and two other family members in a house fire recently?
Surprisingly well, given the scope of the tragedy. The Rams, with Omogbo playing a season-low 10 minutes, went out the very next day and won at Air Force, presenting Omogbo with a signed game ball afterward to take back to his surviving family members when he headed home to Maryland the following day. They won again just a day after his return, picking up a home victory with significant contributions from Omogbo down the stretch, over San Jose State on Wednesday. Having a bye over the weekend helped tremendously, allowing Omogbo to return home without missing any games, and giving his teammates some time off to cope with the tragedy in their own way without having to play another game. They pushed themselves through most of the Air Force game before truly comprehending what had happened, then held on to win when the emotions started to spill over in the final few minutes with teammates consoling a grieving Omogbo on the bench.
When Colorado State is clicking, what does it do well? Conversely, what are some of the struggles when things aren’t going well?
When the Rams are hitting their 3-pointers, they’re hard to stop. They’ve got a decent inside game with Omogbo and Tiel Daniels that becomes far more effective when defenses have to extend themselves out beyond the perimeter. Every player on the team can and does shoot the 3, and guards John Gillon, Antwan Scott and J.D. Paige are all good drivers when they see a path to the rim. The Rams lead the Mountain West in free-throw shooting, too, at 73.9 percent, so they’re not afraid to get fouled on those drives.
When the 3s aren’t falling, they struggle at both ends of the floor. They have a tendency to try to shoot their way out of slumps from beyond the arc, continuing to force up long-range shots when they’re not hitting any, and sacrificing ball movement in the process. When they’re struggling offensively, they seem to let up on defense, too, particularly in the paint.
How do you see Saturday’s game at Wyoming unfolding, and who wins?
Every game the Rams have played in the Mountain West this year has gone down to the wire, with six of the seven decided in the final minute of play. I don’t expect this one to be any different. I expect Wyoming to win a tight game, feeding off Josh Adams and a home crowd that should be fired up for another Border War matchup.
Cowboys game day
Game: Colorado State (12-8 overall, 4-3 Mountain West) at Wyoming (10-12, 3-6)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (96.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com