Last season, the CSU men’s basketball team traveled all the way to North Carolina only to lose to the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs by two points.
This year, the Rams hope to return the favor when the Bulldogs come to Moby Arena on Saturday for a 7 p.m. rematch.
In what could be an equally close game this time around, both CSU and Gardner-Webb return all five starters. However, despite finishing with a 23-9 record last season, the Bulldogs have struggled out to a 2-4 start, and most recently lost to Georgia Tech 75-53.
The Rams, meanwhile, have been successful in their non-conference schedule so far, pushing their record to 5-2 after a dominating 32-point victory Tuesday over Division II West Alabama. CSU needed that win after two tough road losses to Southern Illinois and Arkansas-Little Rock.
“I thought we played fairly well on our road trip, but not hard enough or consistently enough, and we didn’t execute enough to win on the road against good teams,” Rams head coach Dale Layer said. “But every day, whether it’s a practice or game that we play hard in, we get better.”
The Rams’ leading scorer, senior Brian Greene, will need to have another big game against the Bulldogs. In last year’s game in North Carolina, Greene led the Rams in scoring and rebounds, but had only 10 points.
Battling a myriad of injuries in the past few weeks, the senior had a total of only five points in the Rams’ two road losses, but bounced back against West Alabama for his eighth career double-double.
“I’ve been conscious of getting (Brian) more touches, we need Brian,” Layer said of Greene, who needs only 106 points to become the 13th player in school history with 1,000 points. “I wasn’t worried about him. So he has two bad games over three and a half years – we can live with that. Brian’s a guy we can count on again.”
Another Ram player who has been banged up is center Matt Nelson. The 7-foot sophomore has been nursing an ankle injury, and made his first start of the season in the loss to Arkansas-Little Rock. Despite the heavily taped ankle, Nelson dropped 18 points and had four rebounds.
“Nelson gets a little better everyday and we just have to get him in a rhythm and get him some time and then get him out of there,” Layer said. “We’re battling with getting him in condition but not putting too much wear and tear on the ankle, which is kind of a hard balance.”
Saturday’s game against Gardner Webb is the second in a six-game home stand for the Rams, who don’t play on the road again until Dec. 30.