After winning just one road Mountain West Conference game last season and struggling to a 2-3 overall record in road games this year, the CSU men’s basketball team will look to fix its road struggles in one of the country’s most difficult venues.
The Rams will travel to No. 15/17 New Mexico’s University Arena tonight to face a Lobos team that has won 25 of their last 28 games at home over the last two seasons.
Last year when New Mexico handed the Rams a 33-point drubbing. CSU maintains it is more prepared to take on this year’s challenge in Albuquerque this year.
“It’s a tough place to play but I think we’ve just gotta play our game,” CSU senior guard Dorian Green said. “We’re way better as a team defensively and rebounding-wise and just a better sense of toughness than what we had last year and some more resilience so we’ve just gotta play our game.”
CSU’s toughness on the interior and on the boards has gotten the attention of many around college basketball and New Mexico coach Steve Alford is no different.
The way the Rams can neutralize the ruckus that “The Pit” can provide tonight is by creating second chances for themselves offensively by pulling down offensive rebounds, a category which CSU averages 13.8 per game, good enough for sixth in the NCAA.
“We might have guys that are sitting over there on the bench and our cameramen and everybody else on the floor try to help us rebound against this team,” Alford said. “But we’re just gonna have to concentrate on it, do the things we’ve done all year. I don’t think it’s about changing a lot of things it’s just each game, each team presents different emphases that you have to have going into the game.”
Critical in maintaining the Rams’ dominance on the boards will be 6-foot 10-inch center Colton Iverson, who has averaged nine rebounds per game this year, but will be facing 7-0 New Mexico center Alex Kirk.
The matchup between Kirk and Iverson will be one to watch in the game as both centers have averaged over 12 points per game this season, and Iverson is looking forward to matching up against another post who is as vertically gifted as he is.
“I generally get my game on the court better when I’m going against a guy my size,” Iverson said.
The key for Iverson and the rest of the Rams against New Mexico will be how they execute when they get into “The Pit” and playing the way they have all season from the start of the game.
“We struggled against UNLV on our own court to start the game the right way and we made a lot of mistakes,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said. “The game breaks us down wherever it is, whether it’s home, let alone The Pit…We just take it one day at a time and it’s really just about us, it’s not about the opponent.”