Jan 192004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

The CSU men’s basketball team is possibly at its lowest point of

a roller coaster season.

The Rams (8-7 overall, 0-2 Mountain West Conference) started

Winter Break with an embarrassing 84-67 loss at in-state rival the

University of Denver. CSU then went on a four-game winning streak

highlighted by an amazing last-second 71-69 upset against then-No.

21 Purdue on Dec. 30. The game ended with two 3-pointers in the

final 0.7 seconds by point guard Micheal Morris to win the

game.

However, the Rams went into Monday night’s 10 p.m. game at Utah

on a three-game losing steak, including an 82-53 blowout loss to

Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, Saturday. Check Wednesday’s Collegian

for the CSU-Utah game recap.

Nelson, CSU’s leading scorer and preseason player of the year in

the Mountain West Conference, suffered a knee sprain in the Rams

82-75 loss at Montana State on Jan. 5. The 7-foot, 225-pound junior

has battled injury problems throughout his career at CSU.

“This is an unfortunate injury for Matt Nelson and for our

team,” said head coach Dale Layer in a release.

Nelson sat out the Rams 65-57 loss to Air Force on Jan. 12 and

only played four minutes with 0 points and 0 rebounds against

BYU.

Without Nelson’s presence inside, the Rams have struggled with

scoring. CSU shot a dismal 33.9 percent from the floor against BYU.

Shooting guard Jon Rakiecki, who the Rams count on for long-range

shooting, went 0-for-10 shooting 3-pointers.

The Rams have also missed the services of Morris against Air

Force and BYU because of a strained hamstring he suffered at

Montana State.

Morris played hero in the game being called “the miracle at

Moby” by the CSU athletic department. The Rams blew a 13-point

second half lead to Purdue and were down four points when the

Boilermakers committed a lane violation on a free throw with 6.9

seconds left. Morris raced down the court and hit a 3-pointer with

0.7 seconds left. CSU forward Matt Williams tipped the ensuing

inbounds pass right to Morris who caught and shot the ball in one

motion. The ball went in at the buzzer for the improbable

victory.

“Coach said to make a steal and shoot it in one motion,” Morris

said after the game. “Oh, man, this is an unbelievable feeling. To

make a shot like that at the buzzer and with all the pandemonium

with the fans, wow.”

The CSU athletic department sent the shoes Morris wore at the

game to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.,

where they will be displayed, according to a department

release.

CSU had gained confidence going into the Purdue game with two

wins in the state of Florida, beating Stetson University 79-70 on

Dec. 20 and the University of South Florida 66-65 on Dec. 22. They

followed the Purdue win with perhaps their most impressive

performance of the year, blowing out Pepperdine 91-65 Jan. 3 at the

Pepsi Center in Denver. The Rams will return to the Pepsi Center in

March to compete in the MWC tournament.

“Now we’re pretty much familiar with the place,” Nelson said

after the Pepperdine game. “It’ll definitely be a boost for us when

we come (for the tournament).”

However, if the Rams hope to have any shot of repeating as

conference tournament champions, they will have to start playing

much better in MWC games. Their next game is against San Diego

State at 7 p.m. Saturday at Moby Arena.

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