It was the most heartbreaking loss of the season.
Facing San Diego State at home, with a chance to move to the top of the Mountain West Conference, the CSU menâ€™s basketball team thought it had a top-10 team going to overtime in front of a raucous crowd at Moby Arena.
But a jump shot by D.J. Gay with 1.8 seconds remaining put a dagger through the hearts of Ram nation.
Now CSU is looking for payback, but it wonâ€™t be easy playing at the sold-out Viejas Arena.
â€œI expect that they will be better on their home court than they were on our floor,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œOur defensive effort is the most important thing. Then weâ€™ve got to get into an offensive rhythm.â€
In the first meeting, the defensive effort was solid. The Aztecs (28-2, 13-2 MWC) were limited to 56 points and key players Kawhi Leonard and D.J. Gay were held in check.
But it wasnâ€™t enough, as CSU (19-10, 9-6 MWC) didnâ€™t have much scoring beyond senior Andy Ogide a problem that has haunted the Rams at times this season, especially in a loss at Air Force.
â€œYou need three guys I think. You canâ€™t be a one man show,â€ Miles said. â€œIf weâ€™re just standing around watching Andy (Ogide) go to work all night, now weâ€™re in trouble. We need offensive balance.â€
Wes Eikmeier, who was ineffective in 10 minutes of action in the first matchup as he battled a foot injury, should help balance the scoring. The guard is returning to full health and can provide another shooter in the lineup.
No matter who it is, somebody needs to step up to help ease the load placed on Ogide.
â€œSomebody steps up. Every game itâ€™s somebody different,â€ guard Adam Nigon said. â€œWe just have to get our offense going. If we get moving on
offense and share the ball, it doesnâ€™t matter if we have a second scorer if everybody is scoring.â€
Defensively, the Rams will try to keep the Aztecs out of the paint and force them to shoot outside.
â€œThey create so much inside that youâ€™ve got to pick your poison a little bit,â€ Nigon said. â€œWe have to tighten the paint up and at the same time hold them to one shot on the offensive end.â€
The Rams won the rebounding battle 34-32 in Februaryâ€™s matchup. A similar effort will be needed on Saturday.
The Aztecs average seven more rebounds per game than their opponents and Leonard is ninth in the nation in rebounding at 10.8 boards per game.
Saturdayâ€™s game is the final regular season game for both teams. The MWC tournament will begin next week. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic NCAA tournament bid. The Aztecs are tied atop the conference with Brigham Young, while CSU sits alone in fourth place.
Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. The game can be seen live on The Mtn.
Menâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._