The season has barely started and the CSU basketball team is already facing a lot of adversity.
The Rams are coming off of a loss in a game that would have sent them to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden if they had won.
In addition to the self-inflicted loss, CSU will likely be without two significant players Saturday.
Pierce Hornung got hurt during Tuesdayâ€™s loss to Stanford and Dwight Smith left Thursdayâ€™s practice injured. Coach Tim Miles doesnâ€™t expect either of them to play against USM.
Since the team has basically only been going eight players deep in the first three games of the year, Miles may have to get creative with lineups with two players out.
â€œCody (Mann) will probably get a crack,â€ Miles said. â€œChad Calcaterra can get a crack. Anybody can play.â€
The team will now have to cope with the fact that it gave away a chance to play on a national stage as well as have to be ready to play with limited numbers.
â€œThe biggest question is how we make the mental adjustment,â€ Miles said. â€œDo we let it get to us and get us down a little bit? Do we worry about it and that affect us? We have to really be good mentally. And we will be.â€
Saturday CSU will play against a USM team it beat 63-58 last year in the final of the Cancun Governorâ€™s Cup.
USM lost its two top-scorers from a year ago, but will provide a stiff test for the Rams.
â€œTheyâ€™re really going to attack the offensive glass,â€ guard Wes Eikmeier said. â€œ…Weâ€™re really going to have to contest shots and finish possessions and get one and outs.â€
Defending the glass is made even more difficult by the fact that the Ramsâ€™ starting power forward (Hornung) is out and one player Miles considered using to replace him is out (D. Smith).
On the offensive side of the ball the Rams will try to clean up the mistakes they made against Stanford, especially late in halves.
â€œWe didnâ€™t finish the first half very well (against Stanford),â€ Eikmeier said. â€œWe didnâ€™t finish the second half very well. So weâ€™re going to make it a point really lock into those last minutes of each half.â€
But the good thing for CSU is that thereâ€™s a quick turnaround. By late Tuesday night, the Rams could have three straight wins and the Stanford loss would be a distant memory. Or they could be in a tailspin.
â€œOur response, our effort coming out ready to play Saturday I think will tell us a lot about our maturity and our competitiveness,â€ Miles said. â€œIâ€™ll be disappointed if we donâ€™t come out ready to play. I think we will come out ready to play.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: CSU vs. University of Southern Mississippi
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Moby Arena
Tickets: Free with a student ID
Live chat: Collegian.com