I guess they’ve got their swagger back.
After being out-determined several times over the last few weeks of the regular season, CSU found the edge it was missing in a convincing 84-72 win over Missouri.
There were times when it looked like Missouri would come back, like when they cut CSU’s lead to four Shortly after halftime. Or when Jabari Brown started dropping threes behind screens.
But the Rams always had an answer, usually in the form of a clutch Dorian Green layup or drive.
He came to play with a season-high 26 points after being limited in the team’s last game with an ankle injury and not quite 100 percent.
“When you make shots it feels a lot better,” Green said.
Beyond Green’s transcendence, it was CSU’s willingness to claw for every rebound that won them the game.
CSU jumped all over the Tigers on the boards, out-rebounding them 42-19. Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson grabbed more rebounds than the entire Missouri team by themselves.
This was the second-best rebounding team in the country, and two dudes who might be able to combine their verticals to get over a jump rope abused them on the glass.
Alex Oriahki and Laurence Bowers are both taller and weigh more than Hornung, but he got more rebounds than both of them by himself.
It’s like Dennis Rodman said, “I’m hungrier than those other guys out there. Every rebound is a personal challenge.”
Hornung and Iverson took this game as a personal challenge and more than rose to it.
But now the biggest test of the season is looming.
Top seed Louisville.
Defending Big East Champions.
Future Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.
One of the biggest games in CSU basketball history, if not the biggest given how this season has gone.
If the Rams didn’t have an edge, a swagger then Louisville’s press would bury them.
The Cardinals have 365 steals and it will be a long day if CSU can’t hold hold onto the ball.
Peyton Silva leads the team with 2.2 swipes and sets the tone for Louisville on offense and defense.
He is the consummate point guard that goes as his team goes, much like Dorian Green for CSU.
It’ll be a monster order to ask Green to contain Silva or any of the Cardinal’s guards one-on-one, and I can’t imagine Larry Eustachy will ask him or any CSU player to.
The Rams’ defense has been stout all year, and they have a rebounding edge over everyone in the country as far as rebounding margin. If CSU can win the battle inside and play to a draw outside, they’ve got a puncher’s chance.
Most importantly, CSU wants to play Louisville.
“We just got to love it. You know, it’s going to be a great atmosphere, something that we’ll remember forever,” CSU guard Dorian Green said. “Not everybody gets the experience for something like that.”
Certainly not any other Mountain West team. CSU is the only team from the conference that won its first round game out of the four that have already played.
This is likely the best team that CSU has ever put on the floor, and their coach has helped them understand the gravity of the situation.
“You cannot have these moments back,” Eustachy said.
They wouldn’t want it any other way.