Apparently orange is the CSU Ramsâ€™ lucky color.
Decked out in orange throwback jerseys in memory as their time as the Colorado A&M Aggies, the Rams (14-9, 5-4 MWC) took down rival Wyoming (9-14, 2-7 MWC) 80-64 in front of a crowd of 5,277 packing Moby Arena Saturday night.
CSU led the Cowboys the entire second half, but faced a slight scare midway through. Following a steal and dunk from guard Desmar Jackson with 8:30 left in the game, the Cowboys pulled within 10 points of the Rams 57-47. They wouldnâ€™t get any closer.
Using a combination of solid free throw shooting down the stretch and 18 second half points from forward Travis Franklin, the Rams steadily increased their lead, putting the Cowboys away for good.
CSU head coach Tim Miles said he didnâ€™t have doubts about pulling out the victory, giving credit to Franklinâ€™s strong second half performance.
â€œI thought during the second half they made a run at us and we just took that punch and still found ways,â€ Miles said in the post game press conference. â€œI really commend Travis (Franklin).â€
Franklin finished Saturday with a game-high 20 points, combined with six rebounds. Thirteen of the juniorâ€™s points came in the gameâ€™s final eight minutes.
Forward Andy Ogide was also big in the win for the Rams, recording his second double-double of the season, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Ogide, a junior, said he was glad the Rams could pull out the win despite a strange second half filled with disputed foul calls and awkwardly placed time outs.
â€œThere were a lot of calls both ways and then a lot of weird time outs,â€ he said. â€œThat slows your rhythm down as a player, but I thought we did a decent job of getting through that and playing it all.â€
The Cowboys hung tight with the Rams early in the contest, but quickly fell behind when CSU started heating up from behind the three-point line midway through the opening half.
CSU hit eight of nine deep shots in the first half, including three bombs from Andre McFarland off the bench. The barrage of three-pointers gave the Rams a 43-26 lead going into the half.
Miles said that his teamâ€™s early sharp shooting was ultimately the difference in the game and praised McFarland in the process.
â€œOur three-point shooting is really the story of the game,â€ he said. â€œWe got separation and managed it from there. Finally you have that balance weâ€™ve been missing and Andre (McFaraland) was the key to that.â€
McFarland finished the game with 11 points in 13 minutes of play.
With the win, CSU sweeps the regular season series with the Cowboys, the first time the Rams have done so in 10 years.
The third year head coach was proud of the accomplishment, but said he would take two wins against any team.
â€œItâ€™s good to sweep anybody,â€ Miles said. â€œNow, certainly a rival like Wyoming, itâ€™s especially sweet. I know our guys are excited about it. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s happened often. Thatâ€™s progress and thatâ€™s what we are trying to do, but itâ€™s only one game.â€
Up next for the Rams is a showdown with in-state rival Air Force in Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Franklin finds his stride
Along with a game-high 20 points, Franklin went 12-19 from the charity stripe, breaking a free throw shooting slump that had been plaguing the junior since the start of conference play.
In an attempt to improve his poor shooting, Franklin had been practicing shooting with a larger ball and spending one-on-one shooting sessions with Miles. The hard work paid off Saturday night as Franklin made six of his final seven free throws down the stretch against the Cowboys.
â€œIt feels good to make them finally,â€ Franklin said. â€œIâ€™m just glad I made them tonight. Hopefully this free throw shooting slump is out the window.â€
Miles said that free throw shooting trouble is all mental and proclaimed Franklinâ€™s confidence had returned.
â€œThose free throws are a mental deal,â€ Miles said. â€œHe (Franklin) went out there and knocked down 20 and then indicated to me that if there was a technical (foul) that heâ€™s shooting the technical too. I think his confidence is back.â€
_Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _