Head coach Larry Eustachy has said many times this season “we are going to take it one game at a time” or “the most important game of the season is the next one.” At this point in the season, CSU men’s basketball needs to focus on playing a strong first half rather than the game as a whole.
It is not a hidden secret, shots make baskets and baskets win games. Making baskets and taking more chances inside the paint is the difference between several close losses for the Rams this season.
In Tuesday night’s game against Utah State, CSU found itself yet again playing catch up in the second half. The Aggies went up 29-15 after the first period. CSU shot only 5-for-29 (17%) compared to the Aggies’ 18-36.
A 71-62 defeat to an average Utah State team is one example in the season where CSU was unable to come back to win it. The Rams have fallen in Moby five times this season, two of which were within a 3-point difference.
On Dec. 3, CSU took on in-state rival CU-Boulder. In a back-and-forth battle inside the paint, at the line and on the fast-paced turn over, the Rams were upset by only three points.
The second nail-biting loss for the Rams came from New Mexico on Jan. 25. The Rams were able to force the Lobos to several lead changes on the night though they never lost sight of a victory until the final minutes. CSU went 18-56 against New Mexico where one basket could have been the game changer.
One basket is often all that it takes to decide a game’s winner and a loser. In order for CSU to succeed in the final six games of the season, the Rams will need to get that motivation early on and try to take control of the basket within the first minutes of the first half.
A strong motivation for CSU this season has been J.J. Avila and Jon Octeus. When the ball is in their hands, turn overs take place and rebounds make it onto the scoreboard. If Avila and Octeus can bring the energy up within the entire team, I think this season can end on a winning note.
It all just comes down to the first half of play. It is a make-it-or-break-it 20 minutes of play.
While there is no ‘I’ in team, the Rams still need that so-called ‘I’. The ‘I’ will be that player on the court to make sure the team is energetic and moving the ball to the net of the basket and not just the rim or the backboard.
The CSU basketball team is not having a terrible season, though it does look like that after the success this team has accomplished the last two seasons. While the season is not over until the final buzzer of regulation play against Wyoming in three weeks, a strong placement is still possible to the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.
A win and a loss for CSU comes down to one thing: getting the ball into the basket. If the Rams can not get it going early on in the game, then the second half is expected to be a similar falling come back fate. There is still a chance at a top-four spot in the MW.
Never say never.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @haleighhamblin.