It has been 11 days since the CSU basketball team has played a game at the friendly confines of Moby Arena, a place it has won 26-straight games dating back to last season.
Tonight the No. 24 Rams (19-4, 6-2) will return home to host No. 22 San Diego State (18-5, 6-3) in hopes of keeping the winning streak going and more importantly, keeping pace in a highly competitive conference race in the Mountain West.
The game will be the first time Moby has ever hosted a matchup of ranked teams in its history, according to a news release from Danny Mattie, assistant director of media relations for CSU athletics.
“The biggest thing is just staying as a team, we’ve just gotta be together, no one can’t be doing anything they don’t normally do,” sophomore guard Daniel Bejarano said. “So as long as we keep playing our game, we’ll beat every team and we’ll be conference champions, but it’s gonna take one night at a time, one play at a time.”
The last time CSU faced off against San Diego State, the Aztecs won in a tightly-contested 79-72 overtime game in the Viejas Arena on Jan. 12.
This time, the Rams are riding a five-game winning streak going into the game and are in second place in the MW, with San Diego State right behind them by a half game.
“We know the challenge facing us heading into Fort Collins, they beat us in there last year and hopefully we can come in (and) play better,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “They now have a wonderful home atmosphere and a great home win streak so it’s gonna be tough.”
Toughness is something the Rams have focused on throughout the season as the Rams lead the nation in rebounds per game (42.4) and rebound margin (13.8), and are ranked No. 18 in the country in terms of field goal percentage defense (38.0).
“Tomorrow night the tougher team’s gonna win that’s the bottom line,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said on Tuesday.
“And toughness involves a lot of things: being able to put thought into it, not letting an atmosphere affect you one way or the other. A lot of things, it isn’t punching somebody like someone thinks of what toughness is, that’s the easy way out, the hard part is executing against a top-25 team.”
CSU will get one of its physical leaders back for the game tonight as senior forward and second-leading rebounder on the team Pierce Hornung will be available to start.
Hornung suffered a stomach ailment in the Rams’ last victory over Nevada last week which limited him to just three minutes of action.
The physical presence of Hornung, particularly on defense, will be a large factor in how the Rams play tonight. San Diego State boasts one of the best backcourts in the country with Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, who average 17.5 and 13.6 points per game this year, respectively.
“They can really get to the basket and make plays and get you to foul them,” Hornung said. “And they’ve got a bunch of shooters and they’re a solid overall team, they’ve got some depth so it’s a tough team to match up with for anybody.”