For the CSU Men’s Basketball team the Thanksgiving holiday was anything but a break, as the Rams played four games in the week that students left campus, going 1-3.
Each game was unique for the Rams, as the team dropped one game to a Division II squad, lost two heartbreakers and pulled out one win in the eventful week, leaving them at 3-3 on the season.
On Nov. 22, as the football team paraded around with the Bronze Boot after taking down Wyoming, the Rams lost at the buzzer against Big Ten foe Minnesota 72-71, when CSU forward Andre McFarland’s jumper rattled out.
The Rams played the game without guard Willis Gardner, while fellow senior guard Marcus Walker was not at full strength after being struck by a car in the Moby Arena parking lot the day before. Still, the Rams, behind 16 points from McFarland and Andy Odige and 15 points and eight rebounds by Dan Vandervieren, hung close to the Gophers, only losing by the slimmest of margins.
“I stood on the baseline and thought it was in,” said head coach Tim Miles about McFarland’s final attempt. “It was a good look, and the look we wanted, and it didn’t go. That’s just the difference in the night. I thought we had them.”
The Rams felt good about the narrow loss, but the emotions were opposite just two nights later when the Rams were upset by Division II St. Martin’s (from Lacey, Wash.) 83-76. CSU was without Walker and Gardner again, but they didn’t use that as an excuse.
“Saint Martin’s absolutely ran circles around us,” said Miles. “They ran and dictated everything. We have to go out and do absolutely a better job in our defense. We have to execute our offense better and more than anything, we have to have a winning mentality.”
Jake Linton scored 24 points and Bill Richardson posted 25 points and nine rebounds for St. Martin’s, while the Rams were again led by McFarland, who dropped in a career highs in points (23) and rebounds (10).
The high for the Rams came on Wednesday as they rolled over New Orleans 78-60. Ogide put up 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Walker’s return gave the Rams a boost, in the form of 19 points.
“We need Marcus,” said Miles. “He’s our leader and the guys look to him. Our players feed off him because he brings a great, positive aura.”
The game was an offensive struggle, as there was a 6:31 section of the game which featured just one basket, but the Rams were able to persevere to pull away, and Miles especially credited Ogide.
“I was proud of Andy,” said Miles. “That’s the type of player he is, and can be. You know, he didn’t score for a lot of the game and still scored 22 points and 12 rebounds.”
The conclusion of the Rams road trip was another narrow loss. San Francisco beat them 65-63 on two Kwame Vaughn free throws with just 3.2 seconds left. The Rams trailed much of the contest before catching up to the Dons, but couldn’t equalize in the last seconds, as a Jesse Carr missed a jumper at the buzzer.
“It took awhile to adapt,” Miles said. “We did some good things, we did some bad things. But I thought we played fairly well over the last 20 minutes.”
Despite the return of Gardner to the Rams lineup, CSU was still shorthanded in the game with the loss of guard Harvey Perry, but Walker continued to show he was over the injury with 22 points.
Despite the loss, Miles feels that the Rams are better off than last season.
“It’s a better feeling than last year,” said Miles, “because this year it feels like we can do something with it.”
Men’s basketball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at email@example.com.