The Colorado State men’s basketball team will look to pick up a signature Mountain West road win Wednesday night in a Mountain West rematch against Fresno State.
The Rams (21-5, 8-5 MW) enter the game coming off a hard fought loss at San Diego State. They are now two games back in the conference title race and cannot afford any more losses. The Bulldogs (12-13, 7-5 MW) are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season against Boise State, and will be looking to build on that.
Fresno State has lost just two game own their home court this year. The first came late in November against Cal in late November. The other came in January, when the Bulldogs lost a triple-overtime thriller to then No. 25 Wyoming, so the Rams will have their work cut out for them in Fresno. The game tips off Wednesday at 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.
Here are three keys to a CSU victory:
Clean the glass on offense
The Rams were out-rebounded for just the sixth time this year in their loss to SDSU on Saturday. That was the fourth time the CSU has been out-rebounded in conference play, and has now happened in the team’s last two losses.
Head coach Larry Eustachy has been known for putting an emphasis on rebounding, and cannot be pleased with those numbers. CSU is still a top-50 rebounding team in the country at 37.5 per game though, and need to get back to that.
Against Fresno, the Rams cannot just win the rebounding battle, they have to dominate the offensive glass. That was the case last time when CSU blew out Fresno State 80-57. CSU out-rebounded the Bulldogs 45-27 in that game, and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds.
The frontcourt of Tiel Daniels, J.J. Avila and Stanton Kidd combine to average an impressive 7.2 offensive rebounds per game. CSU does not always shoot as well on the road so those second chances might be much needed.
Even if the opponent is hitting shots and the opportunities for easy rebounds are not there, players still need to crash the boards on the other end, especially against a Fresno State team that does not have the personnel to keep the Rams off of the glass.
Force the refs to call fouls
The whistles don’t always go your way on the road, but against Fresno State, the Rams must force the issue on the refs anyway. The Bulldogs’ 20.5 personal fouls per game is the most of any Mountain West team and ranks amongst the 50 worst fouling teams in the country.
The onus is not just on players like Avila and Kidd to fight in the paint though. The need is to get there as well, since Fresno State’s backcourt is prone to picking up reaching calls. Marvelle Harris, a guard, averages more personal fouls per game than any of CSU’s big men.
Cezar Guerrero, also a guard, really demonstrated the team’s lack of discipline in that regard by fouling Larry Nance Jr. with less than a second left in overtime while he was about 70 feet from the basket.
Force the Bulldogs to make those types of mistakes throughout the contest. Fresno State commits 23.4 fouls per game in conference losses compared to just 18.7 per game in conference wins.
Space the floor with De Ciman
Between CSU’s big three of Avila, Kidd and Daniel Bejarano and the bench play of John Gillon and Gian Clavell, the name Joe De Ciman is unfairly lost in the mix.
The junior guard is one of the best spot-up shooters on the CSU roster, and his ability to hit outside shots has been crucial to the team’s success. Getting him going from outside is a must not only against Fresno State, but in every game from here on out.
CSU is 8-1 in conference games when the Canadian has made at least one 3-pointer. The Rams are 0-4 in the MW when he has not.
De Ciman, who is shooting 37 percent from deep in the season, has made just 20 percent of his threes in CSU’s five losses (all in MW play). Conversely, De Ciman is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range in CSU’s 21 wins.
Whether or not his presence is as noticeable as some of the other starters, CSU needs his scoring and shooting to space the floor and take a little pressure off of others. The Rams are 8-1 overall this season when De Ciman scores in double digits, so they should try to find open looks to get him going early.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.