Nov 132006
 
Authors: Matthew Pucak

After discarding of CSU-Pueblo last week, the men’s basketball team is ready for some top-notch competition. They will get their chance this week.

The Rams to face the Baylor Bears in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off in Spokane, Wash., Tuesday.

Rams players came out a bit nervous early in their opening 76-67 win over CSU-Pueblo, but forward Tyler Smith says that they will have put those nerves behind them as they head into their game against the Bears.

“The nucleus of our team is kind of new, so we were kind of jittery,” said Smith, who had 26 points on opening night. “But we all are going to have those pre-game jitters.”

Smith said he was looking to playing in a nationally known preseason tournament.

“Now we got the first one out of the way I think we should be good to go and just head to Spokane (Preseason NIT) and do well up there,” Smith said.

Following the CSU-Pueblo game Friday, a game in which the Rams struggled to control rebounds, forward Jason Smith believes the Rams had a lot to do over the weekend to prepare for Baylor.

“We need to be more aggressive on the boards and dribble hand-offs,” said the preseason all-MWC conference selection.

The Bears, coached by Scott Drew, defeated Angelo State 90-65 on Saturday in their season opener, behind sophomore forward Kevin Rodgers’ 21 points and eight rebounds.

Baylor went 4-13 last year, only playing Big 12 conference games due to NCAA sanctions, and this year is their first season in four years with a full allotment of scholarships.

Due to these sanctions, Baylor is a very young team, with only five upperclassmen, but they are very talented.

Guards Aaron Bruce and Curtis Jerrells are the Bears returning scoring leaders, and each was tabbed as Freshman All-Americans during their respective rookie campaigns.

The winner of the first round game between the Rams and Baylor will face the winner of the Gonzaga vs. Rice game on Wednesday at 8:30 MST on ESPN2, with the winner of that going to the semi-finals in New York, while the losers of the first round games will meet beforehand at 6:30 MST with no television coverage.

Basketball beat writer Matt Pucak can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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