Mar 072004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

Dale Layer had been searching for a complete game all season in

the Mountain West Conference, and he finally got it in the regular

season finale Saturday against the New Mexico Lobos.

Starting his 17th different starting lineup combination of the

season, the CSU men’s basketball head coach saw the Rams win their

first conference game that did not go into overtime , with a 76-66

score over the Lobos in front of 4,107 fans at Moby Arena.

The win snapped a seven game losing streak.

“It was a win that was a long time coming,” Layer said. “There

were glimpses of the team I was hoping to see all year.”

Freshman point guard Dwight Boatner’s 3-pointer at the buzzer

gave CSU a 43-36 lead at half time.

The Rams never let the Lobos get closer than four points in the

second half and sealed the game with good free throw shooting down

the stretch.

CSU leading scorer Matt Nelson tied his season high in scoring

with 25 points, hitting many shots off good passes from other Rams.

CSU had 16 assists and just nine turnovers, the team’s best

assist-to-turnover ratio all season.

“I knew they were going to try and double me,” Nelson said.

“Doing the stuff I do helps out everybody else.”

New Mexico forward Danny Granger, the Mountain West’s leading

scorer, had 19 points but hit just 2-of-10 shots from the floor.

CSU used many defenders to guard Granger and consistantly sent him

to the line, where he hit 14-of-18 free throws.

“That’s all you can do when you’re guarding a guy like Danny

Granger,” Layer said of CSU’s physical play on the 6-foot-8

forward. “He’s an unbeleivabley gifted player.”

Nelson said he wanted to send seniors Derrick Stevens and Ronnie

Clark out with a victory at home. Both Stevens and Clark started,

and Clark got the Rams going with eight points in the first 6:25 of

the first half.

“It was a good feeling,” Clark said of Saturday’s win. “We

struggled with injuries (this season) and it made it hard to build

off of.”

Injuries to Nelson and shooting guards Micheal Morris and

Shelton Johnson, combined with fundamental mistakes and

inconsistant play from many players this season, led the Rams

(12-15 overall, 4-10 MWC) to a last place finish in the Mountain

West. They will play regular-season champion Air Force in the first

round of the Mountain West tournament Thursday at 7 p.m. at the

Pepsi Center in Denver. New Mexico (14-13, 5-9) finished in fifth

place and will play fourth-seeded UNLV in the first round.

The win gave CSU a little momentum heading into the tournament.

CSU also has confidence because they won the conference tournament

last year after losing seven straight games in February.

“I’m excited to play (Air Force),” said Nelson, who missed both

of the Rams previous meetings with the Falcons due to a sprained

right knee. “We’re going to try to do the same thing we did last

year.”

The Good

Matt Nelson tied a season-high with 25 points on 8-of-10

shooting and Freddy Robinson had his second best game of the year

with 19 points. The Rams also had a season high in

assist-to-turnover ratio and went 30-for-39 from the foul line.

The Bad

The Rams gave up 14 offensive rebounds and 37 overall to New

Mexico. There were 54 fouls committed in the game, including five

from forward Matt Williams, who didn’t score.

The Ugly

CSU guard Jon Rakiecki had another poor day shooting the ball.

The 3-point specialist went 0-for-4 shooting, including 0-for-3

from 3-point range. Rakiecki hit just 18.2 percent (8-of-44) of his

3-pointers in conference play this season.

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