It's been about a month since the CSU men's basketball team walked off the court with a win, but the last time they did, they defeated the Utah Utes. Holding a 4-8 record away from home, the Rams hit the road for Salt lake City, Utah to play the Utes tonight after a week off.
"I think (the rest) helped us, we get a little extra time to prepare and I think our players used it to their advantage," said head coach Dale Layer of the one week break.
Currently on a seven-game losing steak, the Rams (12-11, 1-9 MWC) are coming off two heart-breaking losses to San Diego State and the University of New Mexico. The Rams will try for their second MWC victory of the season.
The Utes are currently on a two-game winning streak with wins against in-state rival BYU and Mountain West Conference leader San Diego State. They hold a 12-10 mark on the season with a 5-6 record in conference play. Utah has a 9-3 record at home this season. The combo of senior Bryant Markson (14 points per game) and sophomore Johnnie Bryant, who has been the main man lately by leading the team in scoring the last three games, will present a tough challenge for the Rams. Bryant, a 6-foot guard, has scored 14, 15 and 19 points in his last three outings.
"We know they are going to be a better team than the last time we played them," said junior forward Michael Harrison.
Utah came into Moby Jan. 14 and suffered an 84-78 loss. CSU used balanced attack to plague the Ute defense in the first match-up. Forwards Jason Smith and Michael Harrison combined for 29 points, while guards Sean Morris and Corey Lewis added 37 points in a joint effort.
"If we spread the points around, it makes it so that the defense can't lock into one player," Harrison said. "They never know what is coming at them."
The Rams shot an impressive 64 percent from the field in the teams previous meeting, converting on 32 of their 50 attempts. Bryant Markson kept the Utes in the game last time by scoring 19 points on the night.
"We'll do some of the same things we did last time that worked, but also throw some new stuff in there," said Layer after Monday's practice.
CSU currently ranks first in the conference in scoring offense (76 points a game) and field goal percentage (49 percent), but are ranked last in scoring defense allowing 72 points a game.
With only six more games left in the season, three home and three away, the Rams will look to go on a run before the conference tournament begins in less then a month on March 7.
"We know it's getting down to crunch-time," Harrison said. "We need to start to string some wins together before going into the tournament."