If at first you donâ€™t succeed, try again. If you donâ€™t succeed a second time, wait for the conference tournament and try yet again. Thus is the story of the CSU Rams.
The Rams (16-14, 7-9 MWC) are in Las Vegas and set to face the San Diego State Aztecs (22-8, 11-5 MWC) in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament. CSU has struggled against the Aztecs this season, dropping both regular season matchups, losing by an average of 12.5 points.
Rams head coach Tim Miles said he hopes the third time is the charm for his team against SDSU.
â€œIt better be,â€ Miles said. â€œHonestly, they are an awfully difficult team to beat, but at the same time, itâ€™s hard to beat a team three times. We finally felt like, in the last 12 minutes of the game at San Diego State, we found our niche. Thatâ€™s really important, so we have to go back to that spot from the get go, not with 28 minutes gone.â€
Although first-half mistakes ultimately cost the Rams the game, CSU outscored the Aztecs 36-35 in the second half of the pairâ€™s last meeting two weeks ago.
Forward and newly-named, second team all conference player Andy Ogide said the Rams know the right formula to finally get past SDSU.
â€œThe first time rebounding and turnovers killed us. The second time turnovers killed us, so hopefully we can just get rid of the turnovers and weâ€™ll be good,â€ the junior said.
The Rams enter the matchup with a small dose of momentum on their side after beating Utah 76-67 in Moby Arena to end the regular season. The victory broke a difficult five-game losing streak.
CSU guard Adam Nigon explained just how important the win over Utah was to his team and said heâ€™s happy to get another crack at upsetting SDSU.
â€œWe wanted San Diego State again,â€ the junior said. â€œItâ€™s huge to get some momentum going into the tournament because this is the time of year when you really want to get going and play some of your best basketball.â€
SDSU enters the game as one of the hottest teams in the MWC with wins in eight of their last 10 games. The Aztecs crushed Air Force 61-42 to end the regular season and are led by MWC freshman of the year Kawhi Leonard who averaged 12.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game during the regular season.
SDSUâ€™s main weakness comes from long range shooting. The Aztecs shot a measly .318 percent from three-point range this season, a stat Miles plans on exploiting.
â€œWeâ€™re going to force them to have to make those types of shots (deep shots) again there is no question,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re going to make a mess out of the paint and going to make them beat us from outside.â€
Even with the odds against them, Nigon says the Rams have what it takes to make a run in the tournament.
â€œIt just takes us to get hot on offense with our shooting and lock down defensively,â€ the Broomfield graduate said. â€œI think we can shock some teams in the Mountain West. Any team really has a fighting chance in Vegas.â€
Tip off for todayâ€™s game is set for 3:30 p.m.
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.