For the last time ever as conference opponents, CSU and the University of Utah will meet on the hardwood of Moby Arena.
These two long-time rivals have battled each other 145 times over nearly 80 years, making it the second longest standing rivalry in CSU basketball history.
CSU (18-10, 8-6 MWC) has recently struggled to find victories, losing a season-high three straight games. â€“â€“ each loss making a NCAA tournament berth less likely.
Saturdayâ€™s loss to the Air Force Academy, 74-57, shattered the Ramsâ€™ goal to win three of their final four games, which they felt would earn them a spot in the tournament.
The players still feel the Big Dance is not out of their reach.
â€œIf we do everything right, win the conference tournament, weâ€™re in,â€ sophomore Greg Smith said. â€œWe still have the opportunities these last two games and with the tournament coming up to make a run at it.â€
The Rams have given up an average of 72 points per game during the current three-game losing streak, four points more than the teamâ€™s season average of 68.
Tonightâ€™s game is the final home contest of the season and a chance to regain what has been absent in the previous three defeats.
â€œWe just got to get our swagger back. Thatâ€™s something weâ€™ve been missing, especially defensively,â€ Smith said. â€œWeâ€™re trying to get back to our old selves.â€
Smith played well in the first matchup between the two schools on Jan. 29, scoring 14 points in 27 minutes and contributing with four rebounds.
Point guard Dorian Green wants to focus on defense when CSU goes up against the conferenceâ€™s second-leading scorer, Will Clyburn.
â€œWe need to get back to our bread and butter, and when we were winning that was defense,â€ Green said. â€œFor us itâ€™s to make everything difficult for (Clyburn), and if we do that maybe we have a chance of making him struggle a bit.â€
Clyburn leads the Utes (13-15, 6-8 MWC) in almost every statistical category including points per game (17.9), rebounding and field goal percentage.
Offensively, the Rams have been unable to shoot consistently from outside the three-point line, leaving the scoring load for senior forward Andy Ogide.
â€œEven though a lot of our shots havenâ€™t been falling, some people have still been staying aggressive,â€ Smith said. â€œOne of these nights some things are going to fall.â€
Utah comes in with a streak of its own, winners of the last three games.
â€œI think theyâ€™re playing defense better than ever is the way I see it,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œWeâ€™ve struggled from the outside, so I expect a good ball game.â€
A win tonight against Utah would set a CSU record for most conference victories in a season at nine and would be the first team to reach 19 wins since the 2002-03 season.
Tipoff is set for 7:15 p.m.
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.