It was expected that the CSU Rams would be rebuilding this season, but the extent of their struggles to find victories has been surprising.
The Rams sit at 6-21 on the season and 0-13 in conference, and the total margin of victory by the opponents in six of those losses is just 17 points. That means there have been plenty of games where one or two possessions may have cost the Rams the game.
They travel to San Diego State (18-10, 8-6) on Saturday night, a team CSU lost to by just one point, 83-82, earlier this season. With a goal to be at least two points better than last time, they have one focus to make sure they accomplish that task: defense.
“We have to focus on defending their personnel. If we play well on the defensive end, the offensive end will take care of itself,” freshman forward Andre McFarland said.
It is on the defensive end that CSU has struggled, and many times it hasn’t been about intensity or hustle, but because of a lack of size. Seven-foot centers Stuart Creason and Ronnie Aguilar have missed much of the season due to injury, and other than that, the Rams only have two players over 6-foot-6 to defend the post.
McFarland, Flynn Clayman and Adam Nigon would all be better suited to defend small forwards or guards, but they have been forced to defend much bigger and experienced forwards for most of the season.
“At first I had some resentment about having to play the four (power forward). I knew coming in that I would have to play some, but I didn’t know how heavy a dose it would be,” McFarland said. “I changed my mind when I realized that it was the only way for us to compete, and I had to play down low.”
The Aztecs present a challenge for the Rams, as they have three 6-foot-6 or taller players that can pound in the paint. Lorenzo Wade leads the Aztecs in scoring at 15.7 points per game, but it was Ryan Amoroso (23 points) and Billy White (17 points) who stepped up to lead the Aztecs in the last matchup against CSU.
The Rams regularly play four freshmen, but the youngsters struggled in their past game against Wyoming, and the Rams know they need the young guns to bounce back.
“Whenever you rely on freshmen, you are vulnerable, and after a bad game, it is about how you pick yourself back up and prepare for the next game, against San Diego State,” coach Tim Miles said.