Dec 012011
 
Authors: Kevin Lytle

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 won’t happen. They know they are entering a key stretch of their season and can’t afford a slip.

“We’re really focused on UNI right now, they’re a really good team,” junior guard Wes Eikmeier said. “They’re like seventh in RPI right now and only have one loss. That’s going to be a tough game in their place.”

UNI enters Saturday’s game at 6-1 with impressive wins over Old Dominion, Providence College and Iowa State, all away from home.

The only blemish on UNI’s record came when they played against Saint Mary’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.

“Their play-calling is outstanding, they’re very physical man-to-man,” coach Tim Miles said. “They control the tempo, play a low-scoring game.”

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.

“We have to look for our opportunities when we can, we have to make transition opportunities, we have to make outside shots and we’re going to have to play great defense,” Miles said.

A win would give CSU four-straight victories and a 6-2 record on the season.

“They’ve built a really good program there, a really good tradition,” said Eikmeier, who was recruited by UNI. “Especially beating Kansas to get to the Sweet 16 (in 2010), they’re a really good team and have a lot of good weapons out there. We’ll have to play really well to win.”

Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

The game

What: CSU vs. University of Northern Iowa

Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa

When: 12:30 p.m. MT

 Posted by at 4:40 pm

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