Coming to Moby Arena is no easy task for opponents. CSU basketball has one of the best win percentages at home in the nation over the last five years, which is exactly how the team wants to keep things this year.
At over 5,000 feet elevation, Moby Arena has one of the highest elevations in the country and the Rams want to use the thin air to their advantage and run their opponents right off the court.
“Not everybody in the country is doing the type of things we are doing in practice,” Rams’ forward Emmanuel Omogbo said. “When we go out to like a San Diego State, everybody is flying around, but when guys have to come here, they struggle a lot.”
One of the major keys of any successful Larry Eustachy team has always been hustle and effort. Eustachy wants his players to be able to outrun anyone in the nation and he conditions his teams accordingly. Not only are his teams in better shape, but they are also conditioned to the lack of oxygen, giving them an advantage at home and on the road.
The other key is rebounding, which helps defensively by limiting opponent’s chances to score and offensively by creating scoring opportunities through the transition game.
A successful transition game is crucial because it keeps your opponent on their heels and does not allow them to get in rhythm by staying in their half court offense or defense.
Last season, the Rams struggled defensively and their inability to get stops resulted in a diminished transition game. Now the team is looking to get back to basics and re-establish that hard nosed Eustachy mindset.
“Everybody is buying into the defensive side of the game, so I feel that it going to create more opportunities to score on the fast break,” Omogbo said. “We are going to get more steals that lead to dunks and stuff like that. Last year we probably were dead last in fast break points. The offensive rebounds will be there for easy points, but last year when we were not getting them or not hitting threes, we did not have anything to fall back on.”
Players like Omogbo play a big role in the transition game. The big men are the guys bringing down the boards and beginning the transition on offense. Even more crucial to the transition game, is having a point guard that can distribute the ball in the open court and create opportunities to put points on the board.
With John Gillon transferring to Syracuse in the offseason, Prentiss Nixon will be assuming the role of starting point guard and will be in control of a lot of these transition opportunities.
Last year, Nixon stood out on the court mostly because of the unorthodox shorts he donned, but this season brings a new and bigger test for the young point guard.
It is a test he looks forward to.
“Even last year, if I would have had the opportunity, I would have been prepared,” Nixon said. “The way I go into games and approach practice everyday, the way I take care of my body, I think I always have been prepared to take on that role. It’s just a mental thing.”
In 31 games played last season, Nixon averaged 4.8 points and 1.2 assists in 15.7 minutes per-game. With Gillon no longer in the mix, Nixon’s playing time will surely increase, as Gillon averaged 31.7 minutes per-game last season, averaging 13.2 points and 3.8 assists.
Where Gillon struggled was with turnovers, producing 77 on the season. If Nixon can take care of the ball and limit turnovers, the Rams transition game will certainly improve and the team should see more success because of it.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.