Sometimes it takes just one big win to turn around a season, and there aren’t many games bigger to CSU than their match-up with archrival Colorado.
The Rams (3-5) come into the game with just one win in their last five contests, while also boasting a winless record in their last 20 road games.
Still, the Rams feel confident that they are close to breaking through, and they get an opportunity to end both streaks when they travel to the Coors Event Center tonight to face the Buffs (Fox Sports Net, 8 p.m.).
“I know that things are going to change in the next couple of weeks,” said senior guard Marcus Walker. “Hopefully it starts tomorrow.”
Just like the football contests lately, the two rivals generally play very competitive games, as the last five contests between the two teams have all been decided by six points or less.
If the Rams can get a win, they will accomplish something that CSU hasn’t done in over 50 years.
The Buffs won in Fort Collins last December 73-70, but the Rams will be looking for their first back-to-back wins in Boulder since 1951 and 1954. CSU took the last contest in Boulder 72-69 in 2006.
Like the Rams, Colorado (3-3) comes into the competition struggling as well, as the Buffs are on a two-game losing streak, including a 62-46 loss to CSU’s Mountain West brethren Texas Christian in their last game.
The Buffs may look very beatable, but Tim Miles warned that it is too early to make that claim.
“It is hard to tell where they are,” said the Rams’ head coach. “I just know where our team is, and we aren’t where we need to be. We have to get better.”
One of the key factors in CSU’s recent struggles is that the Rams have not been able to keep games close in the first half. Despite outperforming both Nevada and Boise in the second half, the Rams were too far down at the break to get in position to win.
“If we can (get out to an early lead), I feel that it will be easy and more comfortable for us,” said sophomore forward Andre McFarland. “We have to make sure to close the half, but we know that we can play well in the second half.”
Miles said that junior guard Harvey Perry (Achilles) and sophomore forward Andy Ogide (toe) would be questionable tonight, while two other Rams – senior guard Willis Gardner (ankle) and McFarland (back) – would be probable.
For the Buffs, freshman guard Nate Tomlinson has been hobbled by a sprained foot and sat out the TCU game, but is expected to be back in the starting lineup tonight.
The competition between the two schools in basketball isn’t as intense as football, especially with the hoops programs struggling in recent seasons, but Miles hopes that it will soon become a much bigger deal.
“It is a rivalry that captures our fans’ attention, but hopefully we can get the rivalry to the point where both our arenas are sold out when we play,” said Miles.
But most important to Miles right now is getting a win, which would be his first road victory at CSU.
“I would get a free pass for a couple of weeks if we win this game,” he said, jokingly.
Men’s basketball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.