CSU menâ€™s basketball travels down Interstate 25 to take on its in-state rival Denver tonight at Magness Arena.
The Pioneers (0-3, 0-0 Sun Belt) started the season off on the wrong foot during the Basketball Travelers Invitational tournament last weekend in Eugene, Ore., losing all three games by double digits.
CSU (1-0, 0-0 MWC), unlike DU, started its season with an impressive blowout victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a team who made the NCAA Tournament the previous season.
The Ramsâ€™ formula for success against UAPB was solid defense and minimizing mistakes on the offensive side of the ball.
CSU coach Tim Miles believes following the same formula will lead to his teamâ€™s second win of the year.
â€œ(DU) is a systematic team that plays really slow, so we have to really do a great job with defensive rebounding,â€ Miles said Wednesday. â€œOn offense, we have to handle the ball well. We canâ€™t have a whole bunch of turnovers, a 12-or-less type of thing, and score the ball in the paint.â€
Senior forward Andy Ogide will be the Ramsâ€™ go-to target in the paint. He led CSU in points with 19 and rebounds with 8 in the season opener.
The Rams must resist the temptation to be lulled to sleep by the methodical offense DU likes to run.
â€œWe have to focus on doing everything right and not to worry about the scoreboard or what (DU) is doing,â€ Ogide said. â€œTheir offense is kind of slow and choppy, so we have to find our own energy and stay upbeat during the game.â€
The Pioneers have averaged just 53 points per contest, now three games into their season, and are shooting just over 40 percent from the field.
Defensively, DU surrenders 66 points per contest while losing the rebounding margin by five boards a game.
However, this game may not be as lopsided as it appears.
DU has been a much better team at home than on the road over the past several seasons.
â€œThey are a great home team. They have the sixth-longest winning streak in the country at home,â€ Miles said. â€œTheyâ€™re just a different animal at home. I donâ€™t put a lot of stock into that tournament because anybody can have a hiccup early in the year.â€
The Pioneers do return two of their three leading scorers from a year ago in junior guard Brian Stafford and sophomore forward Chase Hallam.
Stafford has begun the season strong, averaging 13.7 points per game.
The trip to Denver will be the first for junior college transfer Will Bell, who had a nice debut at home against UAPB.
â€œI got a lot of confidence from that game. I did pretty good out there, so thereâ€™s always that boost of confidence,â€ the Colorado Springs native said.
Miles said he does not expect big changes in minutes this early in the year, even with Bellâ€™s stunning opener in green and gold.
CSU lost the matchup in 2008, 66-55, the last time the game was held in Magness Arena, but the Rams have won five out of the last six meetings.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.