Going into a two-game road trip, CSU men’s basketball head coach Dale Layer said his team needed to stay in the flow of its offense and play with a lot of emotion if it wanted to come away victorious.
The Rams did just that and it still wasn’t enough.
After beating Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville 91-66 Monday at Moby Arena, the Rams lost both their road games falling 83-71 to Southern Illinois on Wednesday and 84-75 to Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.
The Rams (4-2) fought hard and stayed in the flow of their offense for both games, but were unable to put together the run that would have led them to victory.
In Wednesday’s game against Southern Illinois, the Rams proved they were ready to play – at least for the first half. Shooting a strong 54 percent from the field, the Rams managed to take a 35-34 lead over the Salukis. The second half, however, was a different story.
As the Rams cooled off, the Salukis began to heat up shooting a remarkable 63 percent in the second half while going on a 21-7 run to put the Rams away.
“Southern Illinois is an extremely tough opponent,” Layer said. “We played them last year in Moby and beat them, but did not have a chance to see them before the game.” Sophomore guard Darrin Brooks of Southern Illinois led the Salukis with a career-high 20 points hitting nine of 15 shots from the floor.
For the Rams it was junior guard Ronnie Clark who led the charge scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while senior Andy Birley added 11points and sophomore Darien Chavis a career-high 10.
The Rams did get some good news in the loss as Matt Nelson, after sitting out most of the team’s first four games due to a concussion, played 22 minutes and scored 13 points off the bench.
Missing from the Rams offense was Mountain West Conference Player of the Week Brian Greene, who managed to score only two points on 1-of-7 shooting, breaking his conference-tying streak of 30 consecutive games scoring in double figures.
In Saturday’s game the Rams again had the hot hand, shooting 57 percent from the field.
Yet, it was still not enough to beat the Trojans of Arkansas Little-Rock who got a big boost from sophomore guard Nick Zachery’s three-point touch.
Zachery led the Trojans with 31 points shooting 9-of-11 from behind the arch.
The Rams again saw a below average performance from their leading scorer as Greene managed only three points in 30 minutes.
Clark – the team’s second leading scorer with 14.4 points per game – also struggled as foul trouble limited his playing time to 11 minutes.
The team did get strong performances from Birley, Nelson, and freshman point guard Maurice Morris, who combined for 47 of the team’s 75 points. But it was not enough to overcome Zachery and the Trojans.
The Rams will be back in action Tuesday in Moby Arena to take on West Alabama at 7 p.m.