Feb 072002

The nice thing about the CSU men’s basketball team finishing the first half of Mountain West play and beginning the second is that things can only get better.

The Rams’ first half of league play was marred by injuries, suspensions, road games and close losses, dropping them to a contemptible 9-12 overall, 1-6 in the conference and to all but an afterthought conference.

The Rams are starting to regain their health, though – their only current damage is a recurring toe injury to 7-foot freshman center Matt Nelson – and hope to reverse their fortunes in the second half of the conference season when they will play five of seven home league games.

CSU will start the second half of league play Saturday night when the Rams play host to border rival Wyoming at Moby.

The young Rams will look to junior forward Brian Greene to lead them into the next half of the conference season as he did in the first. Greene, one of the few bright spots in the Rams’ season thus far, is leading the team in both scoring and rebounding – averaging 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest – and he is averaging 20.1 points in conference games, which leads the Mountain West.

Junior guard Andy Birely has also been solid. With 95 assists on the season, he is on pace to become the first Ram to dish out more than 100 assists in a season since former Ram and current Boston Celtic guard Milt Palacio handed out 130 in 1999.

With Nelson still nursing his toe injury, Greene and Birely are likely to be joined in the starting line up by junior guards Ronnie Clark and Joe Macklin, and senior forward Matt Brown.

Wyoming (15-5 overall, 6-1 MWC) is coming off a victory over league leading Utah, and is now tied for first in the MWC.

The Rams and the Cowboys opened Mountain West play against each other earlier this season, a game in which Wyoming routed CSU 95-72 in front of a rabid home crowd in Laramie. Cowboy freshman guard Jason Straight scored 24 to lead Wyoming in the victory.

However, the Rams are more confident now than they were in the opener.

“That was our first conference game,” said Clark, who scored 15 points in the game. “We are a young team and we might have let the crowd get to us a little bit. I think we’ll be a little calmer the next time around.”

Tip-off for the game is 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Channel 68 in Fort Collins by SportsWest. n

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