A glance at Colorado State men’s basketball team’s roster will show the Rams have just eight active players.
But during the final two games at Moby Arena this season, the Rams had nine. One just did not get a uniform like the rest of the team.
Instead, Colorado State University found the extra support of their ninth member in the 15,739 people that packed the arena over the course of the final two games against San Diego State and Wyoming.
The under-manned Rams played two of their final three games at Moby with a shot to take on Nevada in the regular season finale for Colorado State’s first regular season conference title since 1990.
After dropping the final game of the regular season 82-75 to the Wolfpack on the road, the Rams’ regular season conference title hopes will have to wait at least one more year, but it is not because of the way they played at home down the stretch.
With eight players on the roster and only seven seeing significant playing time, CSU needed an extra boost to get them through the end of the regular season.
“The crowd was really big for us,” senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo said following Colorado State’s 56-55 win over San Diego State on Feb. 25. “We knew we couldn’t let them down.”
Omogbo rattled in a 3-pointer with four seconds on the clock to knock off the Aztecs in front of the 7,856 people that came out to watch, and subsequently spilled onto the floor after the shot.
Just a few days later, Prentiss Nixon knocked a 3-pointer with four seconds to play as the Rams defeated the Wyoming Cowboys on senior night in front of the 7,883 people that crammed into Moby, the largest crowd at Moby this season.
While the on-court success the Rams had this season was one reason the gym was packed in the final two games, the other reason was the work that Ram Ruckus, Colorado State’s official student section, put in as the season moved forward.
Run by President Josh Dolan and Director of Marketing Jacob Hintzman, Ram Ruckus has made an effort to get students to attend sporting events in any way they can.
“We’ve really tried to engage the students,” Dolan said. “Whether they are giving away t-shirts or rally towels, or food or whatever, and just letting them know how fun they can be. I think we really showed that with these last two games.”
The fans stormed the court in both the final two home games of the season.
Colorado State has hit more than their fair share of road bumps this season. Prior to the first game of the season, senior point guard Gian Clavell was suspended for the first nine games. It was announced prior to the beginning of the spring semester that three of the Rams’ 10 players would miss the remainder of the season due to academic ineligibility.
Then in mid-February, a report published by the Coloradoan revealed that CSU recommended head coach Larry Eustachy be fired for emotionally abusing his players in an internal investigation conducted by the University in 2013-2014.
Any one of these reasons would have been enough to derail a season, let alone detract fans from attending Moby, but the Rams kept fighting and Dolan and Hintzman took notice.
“You could just see how hard they tried and the effort they put into the games,” Dolan said. “If they could do that, then we need to be there to help them and support them.”
“He (Eustachy) came and talked to us back in December,” Hintzman said. “We knew he’s a good guy and we wanted to support him.”
The support that the crowd showed Eustachy towards the end of the season did not go unnoticed.
“There has been some special moments in my life,” Eustachy said following the win over San Diego State. “It’s obviously been a season of its real ups and downs and when they announced my name with such a large crowd, the applause I felt, the warmth I felt from our fans really meant as much to me as something has meant to me in a long time.”
Aside from creating a fun game day atmosphere, the noise supplied by a packed arena provided the Rams with a legitimate advantage over their opponents.
“I was getting goosebumps in the final possessions of the Wyoming game,” Hintzman said. “I stopped yelling for a second to just kind of take it in and hear everyone creating that noise.”
According to Omogbo, that noise helped Wyoming’s Justin James miss two key free throws late in the game.
“The crowd got really loud,” Omogbo said. “And Justin James missed some key free throws that he would’ve made if it was anywhere else.”
Eustachy claimed that the crowd was a big factor in the Rams’ win over San Diego State as well.
“Crowds do win games,” Eustachy said. “San Diego State was rattled, particularly at the end when Emmanuel’s shot went in. They didn’t know what to do.”
With the 2016-2017 season nearly in the books, Omgobo made it clear that the Rams need the fan support moving forward even though the senior played his final game at Moby on Feb. 28.
“I hope next year they come out for these guys and they pack Moby,” Omogbo said. “If they pack Moby like that all the time, it’s going to be hard for the other guys to lose.”
Collegian assistant sports editor Colton Strickler can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @coltonstrickler