UW vs. Colorado State hoops Q&A

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? 

Kelly Lyell

Kelly Lyell

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.

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Players weigh in on toughest places to play in MW men’s basketball

I caught up with players from all 11 Mountain West teams and asked them the toughest places to play in the league during MW Men’s Basketball Media Day in Las Vegas.

As you will see, no big surprises where some of the toughest places are, but it’s still fun to see some of the players’ reactions.

G Josh Adams, Sr., Wyoming: New Mexico. Packed house. Very loud. Their fans know everything about you, and they know basketball.”

G Marqueze Coleman, Sr., Nevada: San Diego State and New Mexico. The crowds there are incredible.

G/F Tyron Criswell, Sr., Nevada: San Diego State. Their student section was wild. You couldn’t hear anything. We had to coach ourselves.

G Joe De Ciman, Sr., Colorado State: The Pit at New Mexico. You walk down that ramp and that’s what college basketball is all about.

F Tiel Daniels, Sr. Colorado State: The Pit.

G/F Anthony Drmic, Sr., Boise State: Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah State. Especially Wyoming with the altitude. 

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UW-Colorado State men’s hoops Q&A

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

Matt Stephens

Matt Stephens

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.

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UW-Colorado State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a Q&A session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan about Wednesday night’s Border War game with the University of Wyoming.

UW (13-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) and Colorado State (14-1, 1-1) tip off at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens

With nine transfers on the roster from other Division I schools or junior colleges, what has coach Larry Eustachy done to be able to take that mixture of talent and blend it into a team that is 14-1 and was nationally ranked as of last week?

I think it’s less about what he’s done since they got here and more a focus on the recruiting process, especially the help Eustachy receives from assistant coach Ross Hodge. Under Eustachy, and Tim Miles before him, Colorado State has done a good job – for the most part – finding talented basketball players who are high-character individuals.

There have been the run-ins with the law every few years, but they’ve always been isolated incidents. Eustachy has done a great job finding guys who have personalities that don’t clash with their teammates. This is a team that gets along pretty well.

Look at Daniel Bejarano. He’s a guy who two years ago told me he didn’t really have friends at CSU – not even his teammates he lived with – and cared more about his family in Phoenix than making new relationships in Fort Collins. Now he’s a leader on the court and off it, often hanging out with his teammates as just one of the guys.

It’s also helped that John Gillon, Tiel Daniels and Stanton Kidd sat out last season and were able to get to know their team pretty well during that year.

 

Who, in your mind, really makes this team click when things are going well or even lifts them up when things aren’t going well?

It has to be Gillon. Quite the unexpected star off the bench.

CSU doesn’t use a traditional point guard in its starting rotation and instead uses Bejarano in that role for the first few minutes, but when Gillon comes in, he’s explosive.

He’s generously listed at 6-foot (even Eustachy admits that’s quite a stretch), looks out of control at times, but always has a plan. He does one of two things when the ball is in his hand, shoot a deep 3-pointer (he’s 20 of 40 from the perimeter) or drive hard to the basket, only to draw a foul or dish it off late.

He didn’t want Jon Octeus to transfer, hoping to learn from him before taking over the point, but has blossomed nicely.

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