CSU basketball tries to return to winning ways against Fresno State

Senior forward Greg Smith, 44, fights to the basket at the CSU men's basketball game against ranked New Mexico in Moby Saturday. Tonight the Ram will play Fresno State in Moby Arena at 7 p.m.
Senior forward Greg Smith, 44, fights to the basket at the CSU men’s basketball game against ranked New Mexico in Moby Saturday. Tonight the Ram will play Fresno State in Moby Arena at 7 p.m.

After losing two consecutive games for just the second time all season, the CSU basketball team (21-6, 8-4) will try to right the ship against Fresno State (9-17, 3-10) tonight in Moby Arena at 7 p.m.

The Rams currently hold a half-game lead over UNLV and San Diego State for second place in the Mountain West, but CSU is focused on fixing struggles they have had in execution late in the last two games.

“It’s just us focusing on what we need to do better,” senior guard Dorian Green said. “We’re not gonna dwell on the losses, we’re gonna learn from them and improve on what we need to do to get better.”

One area the Rams will focus on is how they go about finding a way to answer on the offensive end when they are involved in high-scoring contests.

In a three-point victory over Air Force Feb. 16, Falcons guard Michael Lyons scored 45 points against the Rams and in CSU’s most recent loss last Saturday, the Rams gave up 46 points to New Mexico’s leading scorer, Kendall Williams.

“What we got were two incredible players that had incredible outings, is what it was, it was a reflection on them and certainly not a reflection on our defense,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said.

“If you know what you’re looking at, it’s just an incredible offensive performance as opposed to anything to do with the defense.”

Still, when Williams took over the game Saturday, scoring 11-straight points for the Lobos from 4:45 left in the game to the final minute, the Rams struggled on the offensive end.

CSU scored just four points over that critical stretch of 3:45 coming off a dunk and a layup from center Colton Iverson.

The Rams as a team shot just 2-for-10 overall from the field while going 0-for-3 from the free throw line during that span, giving the Lobos a six-point lead they would hold on to for the win.

CSU will try to exploit the size advantage the 6-foot-10 Iverson gives the team in hopes of getting easy touches down low that can translate to points in the paint or open shots when Iverson kicks the ball out.

“We gotta try to get more paint touches and we’ve gotta think of a way to get in there,” senior forward Greg Smith said.

“And as long as we put our mind to it, we could probably do it as well as anybody whether it’s shooting the ball or getting the ball inside.”

Standing in the Rams’ way of getting the offense on track is Fresno State, which is currently at the bottom of the MW standings but has been competitive in most of its games this year, even upsetting UNLV back on Feb. 6.

The game tonight marks the first of the last four games CSU will play in the regular season, none of the final four teams the Rams play have a winning record in conference play, but the Rams still expect close games in the hyper-competitive MW.

“They’re good and every team (in the conference) is good,” Eustachy said. “(Fresno State) beat UNLV, who might be playing better than anybody in this league right now so they’re all gonna be close as we get down to the wire.”