College basketball always has – and probably always will – played second fiddle to college football in Fort Collins. But, for one night, it reigned supreme.
In an atmosphere usually reserved for college hoops havens like Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Arena or Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse, the Rams of CSU battled the Cowboys of Wyoming in the intriguing match-up known as the Border War.
“It was a great atmosphere for a game,” said CSU head coach Dale Layer, whose Rams failed to make the big play in the end and lost a hard fought game, 79-77. “We had a great crowd, our fans were terrific.”
In front of the sold out crowd of 8,745 the Rams and Cowboys battled back and forth exchanging leads and runs without allowing one or the other to pull away.
The battle on the court, however, was just part of what made this one of the most anticipated and exciting games played in Moby Arena.
With thousands of Wyoming fans making the trip from Laramie, Wyo., and thousands of CSU fans coming out to support the Rams, a battle of who can out-cheer whom ensued.
“That’s why they call it a Border War,” said Wyoming point guard Donte Richardson, whose 22 points helped lead Cowboys to victory. “Half of the stands was for them, half was for us. It’s the best kind of atmosphere to play in.”
According to those in attendance, it was, at times, difficult for fans and players alike to identify which team was the home team.
“It was pretty electric,” said long-time Wyoming fan Kevin Keller. “There were points in the game where everyone was yelling, if you weren’t there you wouldn’t know who was at home.”
Though such a mixed atmosphere could have an affect on the home team’s mental focus, Layer said that was not the case for his team.
“(The mixed crowd) had nothing to do with our play,” Layer said. “We’d play as many games in that type of atmosphere as we can.”
Cowboy fans won the vocal battle in the first half using chants of ‘W-Y-O’ and ‘De-fense’ to drown out CSU’s cheer of ‘Let’s go Rams’ in the first 20 minutes.
The second half, however, was a different story as the Rams’ players came out firing and the Rams’ fans, in turn, came out screaming.
A pair of clutch three pointers from senior guard Andy Birley, who scored 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting from behind the arc, put the Rams up 75-70 with 3:30 to play while putting the crowd into a frenzy.
Boisterous cheering from CSU fans characterized the game’s final minutes as the Rams crept closer to victory.
Yet, it was a turnover by Brian Greene and subsequent three-point play from Wyoming forward Joe Ries that put the Cowboys on top 76-75 and brought the Wyoming crowd back to its feet.
“In a game like this it comes down to the little things win or lose,” Layer said. “They managed to execute the tougher things in the end more than we did.”
Though the end result was not what the Rams or their fans wanted, it did prove one thing: college basketball has found its place in Colorado…Fort Collins.