Two players who werenâ€™t key cogs in the CSU basketball attack a season ago led the Rams Tuesday night in their first exhibition game of the season, a 97-82 win over CSU-Pueblo.
Forward Will Bell, who averaged three points per game last year, scored 17 points while playing only 13 minutes as he battled a knee injury.
â€œHe made a living off of good high post passes from Pierce (Hornung) and some other guys,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said.
After Bell led the way in the first half, it was a freshman who took charge of the game.
Guard Cody Mann exploded in the second half after looking a little lost in the first half.
â€œIn the beginning my nerves were up, I didnâ€™t know what I was doing out there,â€ Mann said. â€œI was faking it for a little bit, but (my teammates) kept talking to me. They were like, â€˜be aggressive.â€™ When youâ€™re aggressive, the game comes to you.â€
After calming down, Mann was able to utilize his biggest asset â€“â€“ speed â€“â€“ to create problems for the CSU-Pueblo defense.
He ended with 11 points and made all four of his shots in only 17 minutes of action.
â€œHeâ€™s so good in the open floor. If he can get into transition, heâ€™s pretty good,â€ Miles said. â€œAnd you see heâ€™s a very good athlete. I mean, heâ€™s way up above the rim. But heâ€™s got to be ball tough; heâ€™s got to improve his shot. Heâ€™s a kid thatâ€™s got to develop, but we think thatâ€™s what we can do.â€
And even though the Ramsâ€™ offense is very guard-heavy, they played with four on the floor at times Tuesday. Miles feels that there is plenty of room for the freshman to accumulate minutes.
Mann will get minutes in part because CSU doesnâ€™t have a dominant big man, but they do have lots of experienced guards, which will lead to many small lineups.
One of those guards who is expected to carry a large portion of the load is junior Wes Eikmeier.
He started his exhibition season as if he were in mid-season form. He took 13 three pointers, making six. On the night, he notched 24 points in 29 minutes.
But after the game, he displayed the type of leadership CSU will look for, immediately jumping on the flaws his team showed.
â€œThe two numbers that jump out to me are the 21 turnovers and they shot 46 percent from the field,â€ Eikmeier said. â€œThose are two areas we are going to need to pride ourselves on this year to be good.â€
And with the regular season just a week-and-a-half away, Miles was quick to point out that there is still plenty left to work on before the curtain rises on the season.
â€œDefense â€“â€“ my goodness, defense,â€ Miles said. â€œBall handling. Throw it to your teammate without stumbling over yourself, or travelling.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.Follow @Kevin_Lytle