Looking to stay undefeated in Moby Arena this season, the CSU men’s basketball team takes on the Denver University Pioneers tonight as the Rams continue their non-conference schedule.
The game will mark meeting No. 151 between the Rams and the Pioneers, a series CSU leads 83-67. The Rams have dominated their in-state opponent in recent years, winning eight in a row and 11 of the past 12 meetings.
“Denver’s a team that shoots the ball extremely well and anybody that shoots well is dangerous,” Rams head coach Dale Layer said. “I like what they do offensively and I think their perimeter (shooting) is the biggest cause for concern because of the way they shoot.”
Saturday’s win over Gardner-Webb pushed the Rams’ record to 6-2, and also extended CSU’s home-winning streak to seven games dating back to last season. Under Layer, the Rams have posted a 16-3 home non-conference record and look to continue that trend against the Pioneers tonight.
In last season’s 74-61 defeat of Denver, the Rams were led to victory by sophomore center Matt Nelson, who had a career-best 32 points and five blocked shots. The Rams will look for a similar performance from their big man as they take on a Pioneer team that returns four starters from last year.
“I definitely hope I can get a repeat of last year. I mean, I don’t think I’ve scored that much in a long time,” Nelson said. “We know after this game it starts to get pretty serious with Washington State and South Carolina coming in, so we want to get a win and continue the streak.”
After finishing with a disappointing 8-20 record last year, the Pioneers have struggled out to a 3-3 start this season. DU is led by a guard tandem – sophomore Erik Benzel and junior B.J. Pratt – in which both guards are averaging 14 points per game.
“We should dominate them in most aspects of the game,” Nelson said. “We’re more experienced than last year, we’re deeper at all the positions and we’ve got more scorers than last year. We’ve played really well against them the last couple years so hopefully we can continue that.”
One of the reasons for the Rams’ solid start to the season has been the team’s rebounding. CSU has out-rebounded seven of its first eight opponents, including five games in which it has done so by double-digit margins.
“(Rebounding) is an important part of our game and the more you get, the more opportunities you have to shoot the ball,” Layer said.
With some of the Rams’ early-season injuries finally healed, Layer has found a consistent combination of players, using the same starting lineup the last three games. Guards Andy Birley and Michael Morris, along with swingman Ronnie Clark have started all eight games.