Wake up call, CSU menâ€™s basketball.
Just days after a near-collapse at home against the Air Force Academy, the Rams (14-6, 4-2 MWC) travel west to Salt Lake City, Utah to play an eerily similar team Saturday.
The narrow 69-66 victory over a team below the Rams in the Mountain West Conference standings opened their eyes.
â€œI donâ€™t think our approach to the game was where it shouldâ€™ve been,â€ sophomore guard Dorian Green said. â€œ(Utah) is a must win game, so that needs to be our approach on Saturday.â€
A slow paced, half-court offense gave CSU fits Wednesday night, and the University of Utah (10-10, 3-3 MWC) favors the same offensive philosophy.
Ball movement, screens and rhythm lead to high percentage shots for the Runninâ€™ Utes and their leading scorer, 6-foot-7-inch sophomore Will Clyburn.
Clyburn ranks second in the conference with 18.9 points per game, trailing only Brigham Youngâ€™s Jimmer Fredette. Collectively, Utah scores 71 points per contest.
â€œ(Clyburnâ€™s) different because he really takes advantage of their scheme,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œThey make you guard other things to free him up â€¦ Itâ€™s a different look than we see anywhere else.â€
Defense has been a letdown for CSU at times this season, allowing teams to hang around at the end of games.
Senior forward Andy Ogide looks at simple corrections to make in order to close games out.
â€œWe have to find a way to defend the three better. Thatâ€™s been a theme in every game weâ€™ve played so far,â€ Ogide said. â€œWe have to stay balanced on offense.â€
CSUâ€™s offensive balance took a hit when a foot injury to guard Wes Eikmeier kept the sophomore out against Air Force, taking away a potent three-point shooter and the teamâ€™s third leading scorer.
Eikmeier was limited in practice Thursday and will be a game time decision.
Towering seven-footers David Foster and Jason Washburn protect the hoop for Utah defensively, creating a unique challenge for Ogide and Travis Franklin.
â€œ(Utah) is a great shot-blocking team and rebounding team,â€ Miles said. â€œThat doesnâ€™t change our game plan much. Weâ€™re going to have a few tweaks and wrinkles in our offense we think we can take advantage of.â€
At 5.2 blocks a game, the Utes lead the conference.
To keep hopes of a NCAA Tournament berth alive, the Rams need to come away with victories on the road.
The game has a 4 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on The Mtn.
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._