Jan 242012
Authors: Kyle Grabowski

After losing for the first time since December last Saturday at Wyoming, the CSU men’s basketball team will look to get back on track Wednesday night in New Mexico.

“We know that performance wasn’t our best and we know we have a lot to prove,” CSU forward Greg Smith said. “We’re really hungry for a win and this could be a statement win, going down to the Pit and getting one.”

CSU hasn’t won at New Mexico since Jan. 6, 2007, when current New Orleans Hornets center Jason Smith was patrolling the paint for the Rams.

The Rams will need strong inside play again to come out on top against the Lobos, who are anchored by senior forward Drew Gordon. Gordon averages 12.6 points and 10.5 points per game, both ranking in the Mountain West’s top-15.

“He is an unbelievable rebounder,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “He’s a force inside.”

Wyoming dominated CSU in the paint on Saturday, particularly on the offensive glass, collecting 13 offensive rebounds on the night.

“Priority number one is to rebound,” forward Pierce Hornung said. “Every possession we have to make hits and keep them off the glass.”

The task will be easier said than done, as New Mexico leads the conference in rebounding average, pulling down more than six boards per game than their opponents.

“They’re a real big, physical team, and in the past when we’ve controlled the boards we’ve really had some success against this team like last year at home,” Smith said.

Beyond rebounding, New Mexico ranks in the conference’s top-three in scoring offense, scoring defense, offensive rebounding, blocks and assists.

“This is how you measure yourself; you have to put yourself up against the best, and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Miles said. “You just have to find a way to come out and be successful.”

A slow start doomed CSU in its last game against Wyoming, as the Cowboys scored eight of the first 10 points and never looked back. The Rams will need to get out of neutral sooner to stand a chance against the Lobos.

“It’s hard to play from behind on the road,” CSU junior guard Wes Eikmeier said. “If we do a good job early and show that we’re not going to back down, we’ll be alright.”

Eikmeier in particular needs to get back on track for CSU to be successful after scoring seven total points in the Rams’ last two games. He leads CSU in scoring this season and ranks second in the conference at 15.9 points per game.

“It’s just one of those funks. When we get in the Mountain West, teams know you a little better, and they know to take away the things that have been working for you,” Eikmeier said.

A tie for second place in the conference could be achievable for CSU with a win at the Pit.

“I think we’re ready for this game,” Hornung said. “We’ve been to the Pit before; we know what lays ahead.”

Men’s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

What: CSU vs. New Mexico
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.
Watch: CBS Sports Network

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