The Rams' guard-play struggled in two recent losses to conference foes. Saturday's victory over the Utah Utes in Moby finally got the Rams the conference win they needed; and the guards the confidence they had been looking for.
CSU guards Cory Lewis and Sean Morris combined for 37 points and sparked a late-game surge to push the Rams to an 84-78 victory in front of 6,700 fans.
"Me and Sean took it upon ourselves to play better after we let two get away from us," Lewis said after the game. "We worked hard in practice this week; this win was important for us because it will help our confidence."
The first half showed the explosiveness of the Rams' offense. During one run they scored on seven consecutive possessions. CSU went inside early to forwards Jason Smith and Michael Harrison, which would ultimately lead to the open looks from the outside later in the game.
"We tried to determine how they would guard Jason (Smith) early by getting the ball in low," head coach Dale Layer said. "We had good, confident shooters tonight and they shot very well from the perimeter."
Morris and freshman Stephan Gilling helped build the Ram lead to 10 early in the game with hot shooting from behind the 3-point arc. CSU shot 65.5 percent from the field in the first half and took an 8-point lead heading into halftime, 48-40.
The second half opened up with a 15-7 Utah run to bring the Utes even with the Rams at 55 with just over 13 minutes left in the game. But the Rams didn't panic as they continued to attack the middle of the court. Baskets by Smith, Lewis and Morris helped the Rams go on a 7-3 run with four minutes to play to take the lead for good. Free throws by senior Micheal Morris and a turnover by Utah guard Jonnie Bryant sealed the deal. The win kept the Rams undefeated at home this season.
"Every team is going to make their run at some point during the game," Morris said. "We just didn't need to let up. It feels great to get a win against them after being beat three times last year."
Morris finished the game with 18 points and five assists coming off the bench, while fellow guard Lewis finished with a game high 19 points. Smith recorded 17 points in 24 minutes for the Rams.
After the win the Rams moved to 12-4 on the season and 1-2 in conference play.