Last year the Montana Grizzlies drubbed the CSU men’s basketball team 75-39.
This season the score was equally as lopsided, 85-55, but there was a catch: The score was in the Rams favor.
Oh, what a difference a year can make, as it was the Rams dominated the Grizz, never trailing in the season opener.
“New lineups, new season, we expect different result,” said CSU Head Coach Tim Miles.
“At the end of the day I thought the kids guarded very well for maybe the opening 30 minutes.”
While there were many differences between the two games, none was more evident than the new talent Miles injected into the Rams lineup, especially from CSU forward Andy Odige, who dominated inside with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Odige had to sit out last season after transferring from Ole Miss, and he was thrilled just to contribute after watching the Rams go 7-25 last season.
“It’s been a long time coming. I wanted to play so bad last year. I had to sit out and watch us struggle the whole season. It is just nice to get out there and have a chance to help,” said Ogide, whose performance caused the Grizzlies to get a little chippy.
“I took a couple of ’em (cheap shots). That is just part of the game. They were getting pretty mad because I was talking to them a little bit, so I don’t blame ’em,” said the sophomore.
While Ogide’s dominance may have been a surprise to some, it wasn’t to his teammates and coaches.
“I said earlier in the year in an interview that Andy could be our leading scorer and one of the best players in our conference,” said Marcus Walker, who was often the Rams lone scoring threat last season. “I’m ready to take a role and let somebody else step up. It’s just about the team.”
“When Andy is aggressive in the paint he can be a beast. He plays like that sometimes, but tonight, with the lights on, he really went after it,” said Miles.
The Rams jumped out to a 39-20 lead at the half, something that may have even shocked them after last season.
“I hate that. I hate being way ahead at halftime. The second half is the only half worth winning,” joked Miles. “The guys really guarded, and that is why we were up.”
Freshman guard Jesse Carr seemed very comfortable for the Rams and scored 14 points in his first career game despite experiencing the typical freshman “jitters.”
“It felt like high school again. It actually has been a while since I have felt that way I but I have really good teammates that have instilled that confidence in me,” said Carr.
The Rams had great balance across the board, as Walker scored 17 points, and senior guard Willis Gardner had 10 and forward Andre McFarland had nine points.
Miles added 10 new players to the Rams squad this season, with five making their debuts tonight, and he felt that the added depth was crucial to the Rams intensity.
Despite the win, Miles still said there was still much to improve on, specifically pointing to the fact that Montana was able to get 14 offensive rebounds in the game.
The Grizz struggled to get any open shots, and those they did take didn’t fall often, as they shot just 37.7 percent on the night. The Rams, by contrast, made just over half of their shots (51.9 percent).
Brian Qvale led Montana with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Ryan Staudacher chipped in 14.
The Rams were very happy with their performance, especially since they were able to avenge last season’s loss, but they were also quick to point out that it was just the first game of a season.
“That’s payback, something we can be proud of, but we have to forget about this game and move forward to play Northern Colorado on Tuesday,” said Walker.
Men’s basketball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.