That is why CSU’s recent struggles from the free throw line are so concerning.
In two of their last three games, the Rams have shot under 60 percent as a team from the free throw line.
In one of those games, a 66-61 loss to New Mexico, CSU missed 10 free throws, leaving Rams fans to wonder if the outcome would have been different if those had been made.
“What happened happened,” CSU senior forward Pierce Hornung said. “You learn from it and learn that free throws are important but we knew that going into the New Mexico game. Sometimes they just don’t fall but yeah, we’ve definitely gotta get better and make sure we make those down the stretch.”
The recent struggles from the charity stripe come as a bit of a surprise as the Rams have shot well overall this year, they average 72.8 percent from the line, good enough for fourth best in the conference.
In the Rams’ most recent victory over Boise State, however, Hornung shot just 4-for-9 from the free throw line, contributing to CSU’s 19-for-35 mark on the night.
Hornung and senior center Colton Iverson have been the two Rams that have struggled the most from the free throw line this year.
Iverson holds the lowest free throw percentage on the season for the Rams at 63.6 percent, but Hornung is right behind him, struggling to a 64 percent mark on the year as the two are the only starters to shoot under 70 percent from the line.
To improve their efficiency from the line and extend their 25-game home winning streak against Wyoming, the Rams will need their frontcourt to better its numbers to help the team overall.
But the action of shooting a free throw is a repetitive motion, a battle that Hornung described as “you against yourself,” so CSU has focused on doing the things they do well and allowing the free throw issue to correct itself.
“All in all, as long as we play defense and keep rebounding like we have been, I think we’ll be fine in some of those close games,” senior forward Greg Smith said. “Coach (Larry Eustachy) feels that even if we don’t shoot free throws and we don’t hit shots, as long as we play our game we’re gonna give ourselves a chance to win at the end of the day.”
The Rams are likely to play some close games down the final stretch of the season as nine of their remaining 10 opponents this year boast winning records and two, San Diego State and New Mexico, are ranked in this week’s AP top-25 poll.