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Rams eyeing first road win of 2017 in MW-MV Challenge

Che Bob holds the ball low under the rim
Che Bob (10) attempts to shoot the ball through Northernwestern State defenders during the game on Nov. 24 (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

The Colorado State Rams will look to pick up their first victory away from Moby Arena this season when they face Missouri State in the 2017 Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge Tuesday evening.

Just as all of their games away from home have this season, Tuesday’s matchup with the Bears presents the Rams with an opportunity to pick up a resume-building win.

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Missouri State began the 2017-18 season in a desirable manner, currently sitting at 5-2 with a win over Western Kentucky. The win over WKU continues to look better and better for the Bears, as the Hilltoppers have gone on to beat No. 18 Purdue and SMU. Missouri State is also only a few buckets away from being undefeated. Its losses to North Dakota State and Georgia Southern were by a combined four points.

After returning four of five starters from last season’s team, the Bears were picked to win the Missouri Valley this season. As the senior forward did last season, Alize Johnson is leading Missouri State in both points and rebounds in the early portion of the season.

Johnson has picked up three double-doubles so far this season and is averaging 14.7 points per game to go along with 10.7 rebounds.

In addition to returning their key contributors from last season, graduate transfer J.T. Miller has been a valuable asset to the Bears in the first seven games of 2017. Miller transferred from Howard and is currently Missouri State’s second-leading scorer, averaging 11.6 points per game.

Statistically speaking, two major advantages the Bears hold over CSU are depth and experience. Seven of Missouri State’s 12 rostered players are playing at least 20 minutes per game this season. All seven are juniors or seniors. In fact, only three players on the Bears’ roster are underclassmen.

The Rams are coming off a bounce-back victory over Northwestern State after losing three straight games. Picking up a win over Missouri State and getting back over the .500 mark would be very significant for CSU. Considering the fact that CSU has three consecutive Power Five opponents on the schedule after Missouri State, Tuesday’s game is that much more significant.

Hanging with Missouri State on the glass will be crucial for CSU. The Bears are currently averaging 43.6 rebounds per game, tied for 12th most in the country. The performance from senior forward Che Bob on the glass so far this season has helped the Rams create a 1-2 punch down low.

The senior forward is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game while Nico Carvacho is averaging 9.5. However, Carvacho’s rebounding numbers have dropped since collecting 35 boards in CSU’s first two games of the season. The redshirt sophomore is only averaging 5.5 rebounds per game over his last four games.

Bob earned a double-double in each of CSU’s last three games, averaging 16 points and 10.7 boards during that stretch. He has collected at least 10 rebounds four times this season. Effective rebounding from both Bob and Carvacho will be a necessity for the Rams against Missouri State.

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CSU is 3-3 all-time in the MW-MV Challenge and holds a 1-0 record over Missouri State. The Rams defeated the Bears 76-61 in the 2014 Alaska Shootout.

CSU and Missouri State are set to tipoff at 6 p.m. MT at John Q. Hammons Arena in Springfield, Missouri. The game can be seen on ESPN3 as well as listened to on KARS 102.9 FM.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.

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