The Colorado State menâ€™s basketball teamâ€™s 82-51 victory in its season opener against Arkansas Pine Bluff was an impressive showing for a team that has some lofty expectations.
The UAPB Golden Lions (0-1) may not be considered a perennial powerhouse of college basketball, but they are a team who took a trip to the big dance last season.
Early on it looked as though UAPB would compete as a team fresh off an NCAA Tournament berth, playing the Rams close and even taking a 24-22 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.
CSU coach Tim Miles attributed the shaky start to season-opening jitters.
â€œI think we just got a little worked up,â€ Miles said. â€œOnce we settled down and burned off some of that nervous energy, I thought it was pretty fun to watch.â€
From that point on, the Rams (1-0, 0-0 MWC) were sensational in almost every facet of the game.
They went on an impressive 25-4 run to end the first half and started the second fueled by three-point shots.
CSU bounced back from a dismal shooting performance behind the three-point line in the first half to go 5 for 5 to start the second half including three consecutive at one point.
Senior forward Andre McFarland led the team with 50 percent on 3 for 6 shooting behind the arc and CSU finished with better than 37 percent from long range.
The Rams outscored UAPB 35-26 in the first half and 47-25 in the second.
â€œItâ€™s good to send a message to the fans and to the rest of the NCAA that weâ€™re coming to play this year,â€ senior forward Travis Franklin said.
Guard play for the Rams also showed that expectations are not too high for this group.
Starting sophomores Dorian Green and Wes Eikmeier combined for 14 points, two assists and only one turnover. Sophomore Jesse Carr added four points and four assists of his own.
The additional help has improved the play of the entire team.
â€œItâ€™s great (to have more guard support),â€ Green said. â€œIt just helps the whole team out. Just spreading the floor and giving us different ways to attack people offensively and defensively.â€
Defense for CSU was as big of a key to its lopsided run and eventual blowout win as the Ramsâ€™ three-point shooting was.
UAPB committed 20 turnovers compared to only four assists due to CSUâ€™s pesky defensive effort.
The Golden Lions were held to a mere 36.2 percent shooting for the game and less than 32 percent in the second half.
â€œThe coaches kept telling us to keep playing sound defense,â€ said Andy Ogide, the gameâ€™s leading scorer. â€œOur offense started hitting open shots and getting the ball where it needed to be and moved that much quicker because our defense was that crisp.â€
Ogide scored 19 points and contributed defensively with three steals.
The debut of junior forward Will Bell was another bright spot in CSUâ€™s convincing season-opener.
Bell came off the bench to score 14 points, snag six rebounds and go a perfect 6 for 6 from the charity stripe.
â€œWill had a good night, a great second half,â€ Miles said. â€œI thought he did a nice job for us.â€
Up next, CSU will travel down Interstate 25 to face in-state rival Denver on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Rams won the meeting last year in Fort Collins, 64-59.
Menâ€™s basketball beat reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.