Nearly one year ago, the floor of Moby Arena was overflowing in celebration.
The CSU menâ€™s basketball team had just knocked off in-state rival CU-Boulder by a count of 77-62, and the final buzzer was all the encouragement the student section needed to spill onto the court.
CSUâ€™s junior forward Travis Franklin led the Rams with 22 points in the win and was subsequently thrown onto the collective shoulders of the Ram-faithful after the game.
â€œThat was a great experience. It was unexpected,â€ said Franklin, now a senior, of the postgame celebration. â€œPeople still talk about that game to this day. It was fun â€“â€“ a lot of fun.â€
Flash forward nearly a calendar year, where the 2010 Rams (4-1) hope for a similar result tonight. But this time they will have to win on hostile ground as they travel to the Coors Events Center in Boulder to take on the Buffs (4-3).
Needless to say, a CSU victory tonight will not elicit such a jubilant response from the crowd.
Out of 346 Division I basketball teams, the Rams enter the game with the nationâ€™s third best field goal percentage. But outside of a Nov. 18 road win at Denver, the Rams have yet to play game outside of Moby.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to come in with a mentality of being ready for a war,â€ said senior forward Andy Ogide, who leads the team with 17.6 points per game. â€œYouâ€™ve got to be tough to win on the road. If we keep making strides in that department I think weâ€™ll be fine.â€
The Buffs return many of their starters from last seasonâ€™s team that was defeated in Fort Collins but may play a very different brand of basketball under a new head coach in Tad Boyle.
Boyle, who was hired after Jeff Bzdelik left the Buffs this spring, spent his previous four seasons coaching the University of Northern Colorado. CSU head coach Tim Miles is well aware of Boyleâ€™s style, as the two met last season in Greeley, the Bears winning 70-63.
â€œWeâ€™re familiar with (Boyleâ€™s) style, which is pretty basic, but theyâ€™re difficult to guard,â€ Miles said. â€œTheyâ€™re great in transition. We have to be great in our conversion defense.â€
CU features two premiere talents at the guard position, with sophomore Alec Burks and senior Cory Higgins leading the team with 19.9 and 17.1 points per game, respectively.
Miles believes the duo of Burks and Higgins will present the toughest challenge for his team so far this season.
â€œTheyâ€™re two of the top-50 players in the country, so you got to get those guys under control,â€ Miles said. â€œYou have to stay in front of them as much as you can. You canâ€™t allow them to get those easy transition buckets.â€
Tonightâ€™s game marks the beginning of the most difficult non-conference stretch in the Ramsâ€™ schedule, as the team heads to Kansas City, Mo. this weekend to face 4th-ranked Kansas.
â€œWe are going to find out a lot about our team week,â€ Miles said. â€œGood, bad or otherwise.â€
Assistant sports editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at email@example.com.