“These are my final days, I gotta make the most of them.”
That’s what CSU senior guard Marcus Walker had to say about why he has been playing so well lately. Walker, one of two Ram seniors who will be playing in their final scheduled Border War tonight, is a native of Kansas City, Mo. Despite not growing up in the midst of the CSU-Wyoming rivalry, he still feels like it’s an important game, due to how much the Fort Collins community cares about it.
“It means more because I know how important it is to the people who support us,” said Walker before practice on Tuesday. “Any rival game is going to be an exciting game and I’m going to play hard and I know that our team is going to play hard too. [Wednesday] is going to be an important game for us to win, [and] just to keep moving forward.”
While it will be the fourth time Walker has faced Wyoming in his career, tonight will be just the first this season as he sat out of the Jan. 24 contest, in which the Cowboys won 83-74, due to being academically ineligible. Walker thought that his teammates played well without him, but just couldn’t get the breaks they needed.
“I thought we played well – I didn’t go, I watched it on TV – but I think we just started out kind of lazy. Overall they played with a lot of energy, played hard, fought back, got into the game, but just couldn’t get over the hump,” Walker said.
While CSU was without Walker in the first instance of this season’s Border War, picking up the slack was true freshman Jesse Carr, who scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Rams. This time, Walker will most likely play without the aid of Carr, who has missed the last two games with a strained groin.
“I’d say he’s questionable to doubtful,” CSU head coach Tim Miles said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s the same old song, a broken record, but at the same time it’s a reality – I don’t like it. At some point everyone has injury situations that go on throughout the year and the more depth you have, the better off you are. I don’t feel like we have great depth right now, but it’s an opportunity to see the future for guys to get an opportunity to play that they wouldn’t usually have.”
Without Carr, the rest of the Rams will have to step it up offensively to keep pace with Wyoming. The Cowboys are led by senior Brandon Ewing, who was just named the Mountain West Conference co-Player of the Week, as well as redshirt freshman Afam Muojeke.
According to Walker, his favorite opposing players to face head-to-head are Ewing and UNLV’s Wink Adams.
Aside from the intensity that the Border War brings to a ball game in any sport, tournament seedings in the Mountain West Conference Championships are on the line with only three games remaining in the regular season. The Rams currently sit eighth in the MWC, one game behind TCU and a game and a half behind Wyoming. A CSU victory tonight could potentially take the Rams out of the tournament “play-in” game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds and move them into sixth or seventh place.
“This is a real big game,” Walker said. “It basically boils down to if we win, we ain’t in that game, if we lose, we’re in that play-in game. It don’t matter what happens, we gotta win this game not to play in that game.
“It wouldn’t mean nothing to play (in the MWC Championships), it would be another game in my career, but just to have fresh legs and rest . game would be good for us.”
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. The CSU Athletic Department is promoting a “Hostile Student Takeover” for the 211th Border War. The first 500 students will receive free Border War t-shirts. Students may also purchase hot dogs at Moby Arena for $1.
Men’s basketball beat reporter Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.