Sam’s Rams: Rams taught that size does matter by CU

Sam Lounsberry

Every fan knows it — basketball has entered the golden age of the three-pointer recently. It has become a guard-dominant game, no question.
CSU’s men’s hoops team is no different. Its top scorers, Gian Clavell and John Gillon, are both quick slashers with the ball, have solid jumpers and neither hesitates to pull the trigger from deep when open.
Guards like them are the type of players most teams rely on for points these days. But post-play is still integral in this game. Teams that get dominated inside, the way CSU did Sunday by in-state rival Colorado, have a tough time winning even with solid guard play.
The Buffs outscored CSU 40-22 in the paint. Overcoming such a disadvantage inside with three-pointers isn’t easy. Simply put, all three of CSU’s big men – Emmanuel Omogbo, Kimani Jackson and Tiel Daniels – came up short on both ends of the floor against the Buffs in Moby Arena. CU won 88-77 after CSU held a 13-point halftime lead, 52-39.
Offensively, CSU’s forwards were unsuccessful all day. Both Omogbo and Jackson shot 1-for-5 from the field, and recorded just two points a piece. While more efficient, Daniels wasn’t much more effective, making just one of two shots for only two points as well.
“Well they’re not great scorers to begin with,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said of his trio of forwards. “When we meet length, since Tiel has been here, he’s struggled.”
Meanwhile, CU’s 6-foot-10-inch center Josh Scott scored 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds and 6-foot-9-inch forward Wesley Gordon snagged 12 boards while chipping in 15 points, seven of which came from the free-throw line on nine attempts from the stripe. Even 6-foot-7-inch forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who struggled a bit, added another 10 points in just 18 minutes.
The Rams’ lack of true size showed the most blatantly it has all season against CU.
Granted, Daniels was the only big in the game for most of the way. Omogbo received just 14 minutes, and Jackson a mere 11, while Daniels played 29.
“Those guys are scoring on all our big guys,” Eustachy said of the Buffs. “I couldn’t get Tiel and Emmanuel and Kimani out fast enough. They weren’t fronting Scott, they weren’t playing right.”
Bad games happen. Nobody knows that better than Scott, who went 0-for-7 and scored just two points last year in CSU’s 62-60 win over CU in Boulder. The year before, in 2013-14, he went just 2-for-4 and scored only six points against the Rams. Apparently, he was due for a big game against his in-state rival.
Even when a big is in the midst of a bad game, a coach has to occasionally let him play through it if his presence on the floor provides the right balance of size. In both of Scott’s poor shooting performances against the Rams, he played 30-plus minutes, and his long arms and big body altered some CSU shots in both contests despite his offensive woes.
Down the stretch Sunday, Eustachy went small. Four guards – JD Paige (6-foot-2-inch), Antwan Scott (6-foot-1-inch), John Gillon (6-foot-0-inch) and Joe De Ciman (6-foot-6-inch) – joined Daniels on the floor. Clavell, 6 feet 4 inches, worked his way into the lineup with Daniels, too. But 6-foot-8-inch forwards Omogbo and Jackson remained on the bench.
They were not playing well. No doubt about it. Against a team with less size than CU, going small without Omogbo or Jackson would have been the right move. But by not playing either alongside Daniels, Eustachy gave up size at every position on the floor.
Defensively, size is a clear-cut requirement to win against a team as long as CU. Either Omogbo or Jackson have to be able to be on the floor with Daniels or each other. With Daniels’ incredible strength and Jackson and Omogbo’s considerable length, I find it hard to believe too many teams will find it easy to score on the Rams inside with two of the three on the floor.
At least it would be a lot harder to score on them than when just one of them is out there.
Maybe Omogbo and Jackson really didn’t belong out there Sunday. Maybe Eustachy had no choice but to send the pair of forwards a wake-up call. Defense and rebounding are staples of big guys on Eustachy-led teams. Omogbo and Jackson have to be able to provide that.
And then they have to compliment their guards on the other end of the floor.
Offensively, CSU’s guards failed to finish inside over CU’s length on drive after drive in the second half. After the Rams shot 12-for-20 on two-point field goals, a clip of 60 percent, they went just 2-for-19 inside the arc in the second half. They shot plenty fine from the three-point range for the game, going 12-for-23 for a clip of 52.2 percent from deep. But easy buckets close to the rim were hard to come by.
With Jackson or Omogbo in there with Daniels, CSU’s guards have a chance to throw bounce passes to the bigs for close buckets after slashing. Each seemingly fits well with Daniels, who has heart, hustle and strength while lacking length, which the other two bigs possess.
Eustachy has two talented bigs in Omogbo and Jackson. They just have to fill their roles and actually play. Especially against big teams.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at and on Twitter @samlounz.