Just days removed from one of the most emotionally charged wins in years, and days before the most marquee game of the year, the CSU basketball team has to find a way to avoid a letdown Saturday against the University of Northern Iowa.
The Rams beat their biggest rival, CU-Boulder, on Wednesday on a final-second shot. And next Wednesday CSU heads to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke and the famed Cameron Crazies.
Add in the fact that CSU just made a shocking change by firing Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk, and you have the makings of a potential letdown game.
But the players insist that wonâ€™t happen. They know they are entering a key stretch of their season and canâ€™t afford a slip.
â€œWeâ€™re really focused on UNI right now, theyâ€™re a really good team,â€ junior guard Wes Eikmeier said. â€œTheyâ€™re like seventh in RPI right now and only have one loss. Thatâ€™s going to be a tough game in their place.â€
UNI enters Saturdayâ€™s game at 6-1 with impressive wins over Old Dominion, Providence College and Iowa State, all away from home.
The only blemish on UNIâ€™s record came when they played against Saint Maryâ€™s in California at 1 a.m. only two days after playing a game on the east coast.
UNI relies on balance throughout the roster with eight players that average more than 13 minutes a game and seven players that average seven points or more per game.
â€œTheir play-calling is outstanding, theyâ€™re very physical man-to-man,â€ coach Tim Miles said. â€œThey control the tempo, play a low-scoring game.â€
Opponents of UNI are scoring only 56 points per game and are shooting under 40 percent on the season.
The UNI defense will likely force the game into a half-court matchup, which will test the Rams new-look offense that is relying on running and ball movement to score this year.
â€œWe have to look for our opportunities when we can, we have to make transition opportunities, we have to make outside shots and weâ€™re going to have to play great defense,â€ Miles said.
A win would give CSU four-straight victories and a 6-2 record on the season.
â€œTheyâ€™ve built a really good program there, a really good tradition,â€ said Eikmeier, who was recruited by UNI. â€œEspecially beating Kansas to get to the Sweet 16 (in 2010), theyâ€™re a really good team and have a lot of good weapons out there. Weâ€™ll have to play really well to win.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: CSU vs. University of Northern Iowa
Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa
When: 12:30 p.m. MT