Colorado State (13-6, 2-2) was looking like the Cinderella story of the Mountain West Conference early in the season, beating Colorado and Denver, running up an eight-game winning streak that included their first two conference games.
But that streak came to a crashing halt Saturday in Laramie, Wyoming as the Cowboys’ demonstrative defense frustrated and shut down the Rams’ offense. On Wednesday night, Colorado State endured a similar fate as New Mexico’s high-energy D stifled the Rams’ O.
Both Wyoming and New Mexico are 16-4, making the losses slightly easier to swallow for Rams fans, though a win against either team would have been a big boost.
And exactly how CSU lost in the back-to-back blowouts was shockingly similar and the statistics are truly troubling.
The Rams are one of the best shooting teams in the entire nation as they make 48.7 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from behind the arc this season.
In the two losses though, CSU shot 40.5 and 37.2 percent overall, 29.4 and 21.4 percent from downtown. They were the Rams’ second and third-worst shooting games of the season, and Colorado State couldn’t find open looks against either team’s highly active defenses.
Part of the problem has been CSU’s sloppy ball-handling and passing as of late. The team committed 14 turnovers against the Cowboys and 20 against the Lobos while only averaging 6.5 assists per game in the blowouts.
Following the loss to the Lobos Rams head coach Tim Miles said, “A season-low five assists, and a season-high 20 turnovers is just an easy example to show that we’re trying to do too much with the dribble, so we turn it over. We don’t share the ball, and we’re just not a very good team right now.”
The Rams have enjoyed much success this season by playing team-oriented basketball, rotating the rock to open shooters while playing tough team defense and turning steals into fast-break buckets.
None of which has happened in their last two games.
And while CSU has out-played their lack of size the first half of the season, the Cowboys’ and Lobos’ height advantage was most noticeable as they out-rebounded the Rams 36-25.5.
The two losses bring Colorado State’s road record to 2-5 on the season and they will certainly have to find a way to win games away from Moby Arena if they want to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
They’ll also have to steal a couple wins from the top four teams in the conference to give their bid a boost.
They have a chance to do just that as CSU faces No. 13 SDSU Saturday at home and No. 12 UNLV next Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Colorado State will have to get back to its team-first play if they want to have a chance against the Mountain West’s superpowers and the Rams have their opportunity to prove they’re a legit tournament team Saturday at 2 p.m. MST against 18-2 San Diego State.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is also the Denver Broncos Examiner and writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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