After completing arguably the toughest road trip of the season, things are not looking any easier for the CSU Rams in their return home to Moby Arena.
The Rams (8-17, 3-8 MWC) are set to host the Utah Utes (18-7, 9-2 MWC) who sit alone atop the Mountain West Conference. CSU is back in Fort Collins on a two game losing streak after dropping back-to-back road games against BYU and UNLV.
Rams guard Andre McFarland explained that it’s good to be playing within the friendly confines of Moby Arena again.
“It’s a hard time being away from Moby and the fans,” the sophomore said. “It feels comfortable and we’re looking forward to playing a team we can beat, especially in a home atmosphere. It should be a good turnaround for us.”
Forward Andy Ogide said playing at home has relaxed the team as they prepared for the Utes. The Rams have won three out of their last four games played in Moby.
“We were just in the toughest places in the conference to play, so it’s good to be back home,” the sophomore said. “Hopefully we will play a little looser.”
Utah enters tonight’s game as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning eight of their last 10 games, including an 82-66 beat down of the Rams earlier this season. The Utes are led by senior Luke Nevill, a dominant 7-foot-1 senior. The native Australian is averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds per game.
CSU head coach Tim Miles said that the Utes are on top of the MWC for a reason.
“They have great senior leadership. They have guys who can shoot the ball and a huge center (Nevill) who is excellent. He’s an NBA prospect and anytime you have a potential draft pick it’s going to make your team pretty good.”
In his last game against the Rams, Nevill put up 19 points while pulling down seven rebounds. McFarland is confident in Ogidie’s ability to defend the 265-pounder this time around.
“We need to get him away from the basket,” McFarland said. “He’s going to be on Andy (Ogide) the whole game, and Andy obviously is a lot faster and more athletic than he is. If he can get Nevill going faster, get him tired and get him out of the game, it takes away the biggest strength of their team.”
Miles agreed, but added it’s going to take more than solid defense from Ogide to slow down the Utah big man.
“We need to do a variety of things,” the second year CSU coach said. “It needs to be a team effort, not just Andy (Ogide). On the other end you have to attack him when you are on offense.”
Even though the Rams might be on a down swing at the moment, McFarland is optimistic the team has grown enough in their first 25 games to pull out a strong finish. The Las Vegas native said his team plans to start tonight.
“A lot of guys are feeling better about this situation and we’ve gotten a little bit older,” he said. “We know how to deal with things when they aren’t going your way. You just have to bounce back and hopefully we will show that.”
CSU vs. Utah round two is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m.
Men’s basketball beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at sports@collegian.