The CSU basketball team faces No. 6 San Diego State at Moby Arena tonight, with a chance to take hold of the top spot in the Mountain West Conference.
The Rams (15-6, 5-2 MWC) sit only a game behind co-conference leaders SDSU and BYU. With a win, CSU will be in no worse than second place in the MWC. And if Wyoming were to upset BYU, the Rams could find themselves tied for the top spot.
The Aztecs enter the game ranked No. 6 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Rams received votes in this weekâ€™s AP poll for the first time in more than four years.
Something has to give tonight when the MWCâ€™s second highest scoring offense in CSU goes up against the SDSU defense, which allows the fewest points in the conference.
The Rams score just over 75 points per game, while the Aztecs (21-1, 6-1 MWC) only give up 59.
â€œTheir length and athleticism, thatâ€™s what makes them a good defensive team,â€ said coach Tim Miles. â€œTheyâ€™re a veteran team. Theyâ€™ve got seniors, guys that have been through it before.â€
Another key will be rebounding.
The Aztecs out-rebound their opponents by an average of more than six boards per game. Their length and athleticism make them very difficult to keep off the glass, but itâ€™s something the Rams know they must do.
â€œWe have to keep them off the boards,â€ said sophomore guard Dorian Green. â€œWe just have to stay down and stay disciplined and make them score over us.â€
There is a common perception that rebounding is the job of the center and forwards, but the responsibility must be held by everyone on the floor in order to win the battle of the glass.
â€œThe bigs are going to be in contact with their bigs and boxing out,â€ Green said. â€œWe guards have to go in, clean up and help get possession.â€
The Rams are hoping for the return of sophomore guard Wes Eikmeier, who missed the last two games with a foot injury. He participated in practice on both Monday and Tuesday and coach Miles said he will be a game-time decision.
CSU is excited to face a top-10 crowd at home for the second time in less than two weeks and know they have a great chance to make a statement.
â€œCanâ€™t wait,â€ said senior Andy Ogide of tonightâ€™s contest. â€œThis is a great opportunity, a top-10 team. Plus, it has conference implications on top of that. Itâ€™s just a huge game all the way around.â€
Tonightâ€™s game is set to begin at 7:15 p.m. Student tickets are available while they last during the day at the McGraw Center ticket office.
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.