Separated by only 64 miles and one border, the CSU men's basketball team will host their neighbors from the north, the Wyoming Cowboys, tonight in the first of two meetings this season, otherwise known as the "Border War.
After a disappointing loss in Fort Worth, Texas the Rams look to regain their confidence in one of the most exciting rivalries in the region. CSU (12-6, 1-4 MWC) has struggled on the road this season, but are back in the friendly confines of Moby Arena where they have not been defeated. But this doesn't look to be a normal conference game. "For anyone who has ever worn green and gold it's different with them, for us, the fans, the players," said head coach Dale Layer, who is searching for career win number 250.
Wyoming brings in a 10-8 overall record and a 3-2 record in conference play. They had an 80-67 setback at BYU just one week ago.
These two teams will meet for the 203rd time in schoolhistory with Wyoming boasting a 121-81 series lead on the Rams.
"It's bigger than just a conference game, it's a rivalry on top of
everything," said senior guard Michael Morris. "We need this one to start to turn it around.
This game features a few of the best shot blockers in the nation. Senior Cowboy forward Justin Williams is the leading shot-blocker in the country. The Rams boast two shot-blockers in the country's top 50, junior forward Michael
Harrison (21st) and 7-foot sophomore Jason Smith (44th).
"Justin Williams is questionable, but we are prepared for him to play. He dictates the inside game," said Layer of the 6-foot-10 forward who is averaging 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks a contest. "He is as good a shot blocker as anyone in the country.
Junior guard Steve Leven leads the 'Pokes in scoring, putting up 13.3 a night compared to Smith who leads the Rams with 16.6 points a game and a team-best 7.1 rebounds a contest. However, this game goes beyond all the numbers to everyone involved.
"It's for bragging rights, crowd pride, our pride, team confidence – it's all on the line," Smith said.
The Cowboys were on a three-game winning streak before the loss to the Cougars. They beat TCU in Fort Worth, Air Force and New Mexico in Laramie. They are 1-4 in conference road games in 2006. "They are a much different team than they were in December," Layer said.
CSU will get junior guard Corey Lewis back after a one-game suspension due to punch being thrown in the UNLV game one week ago. Lewis was not able to travel with the team when they visited TCU, in which the Rams lost 85-72. "Corey not being there hurt us," said Layer.
The Rams are back at home after having four of their first conference games on the road, something that no other team in any conference has scheduled. They are perfect in Moby, boasting an 8-0 record. "We are going to come out with energy, the guys are really happy to be home," said Smith. "When the crowd is behind us, our team fuels off of that.