Moby Arena has treated the CSU men’s basketball team well this season: The Rams have posted a 13-3 record when playing there.
The Rams will probably need that advantage Saturday at 3 p.m. when they take on UNLV, a team that handed CSU a 33-point defeat earlier this year in Las Vegas. That was the Rams’ worst loss in seven years.
“We’re definitely gonna come out better than last time. We were thinking we were untouchable a little bit, and that was a gut check,” Rams’ center Matt Nelson said. “The close games have been killing us. We want a better seed in the tournament, so these last four games are crucial. We definitely need to get these two at home.”
CSU plays San Diego State at 7 p.m. Monday.
That UNLV loss started a six-game skid that the Rams are still looking to end. But in five of those six defeats, CSU has lost by 10 or fewer points. And Saturday’s game could be CSU’s best chance to right the ship before starting the conference tournament. The Rams’ final three games of the season are against SDSU, Utah and Brigham Young, which are all ahead of CSU in the conference standings.
“I think we’ve played well in five of the last six games,” Rams’ head coach Dale Layer said. “It’s just frustrating that we haven’t been able to pull some of them out.”
In the Rams’ first encounter with the Rebels this season, the aforementioned 33-point dismantling in the desert, CSU could not handle UNLV’s Marcus Banks. The senior guard dropped 31 points on the Rams, shooting 10 of 14 from the field and 11 of 12 from the free-throw line. Two other UNLV players scored in double digits while the Rams shot 43 percent from the field to the Rebels 56 percent.
The Rams will continue to look to center Matt Nelson, who has become CSU’s most reliable scoring threat this season. Despite knee and ankle injuries that have severely limited Nelson’s practice time this year, the sophomore center from Chicago is leading the Rams with 16 points and six rebounds per game.
“I’m sure he (Nelson) won’t be voted first team all-league, but I haven’t seen a post-guy play better than he has,” Layer said. “He’s just unstoppable. There’s no question in my mind that he’s the best post-man on the floor most every game. And he hasn’t practiced in a month.”
Nelson continues to be CSU’s all-time leader in field goal percentage at 66.5 percent, which also leads the MWC and ranks him fifth in the nation on the year.
Another Ram approaching a milestone is forward Brian Greene who, at 1,119 career points, needs only 41 points to move into the ninth spot on CSU’s all-time scoring list.