Conference season turns Moby Madness into sadness for CSU hoops

Austin White

Home court advantage is supposed to be exactly that, an advantage.

However, this boost has disappeared for the Colorado State men’s basketball team in the first half of their conference season.

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Junior guard J.D. Paige buries his face in his jersey in frustration on Jan. 6. The Rams were defeated by the Bulldogs in overtime. (Javon Harris | Collegian).
Junior guard J.D. Paige buries his face in his jersey in frustration on Jan. 6. The Rams were defeated by the Bulldogs in overtime. (Javon Harris | Collegian).

The Rams are currently tied for sixth in the Mountain West at 3-4 and have lost all three of the home conference matchups. In contrast, the Rams’ three wins have all been in tougher situations out on the road.

“Winning those games out on the road was good for us, but coming home, can’t lose those type of games,” junior Deion James said. “I think we just let the energy get to us and we just got to stay consistent through the whole game, we got to know what the plan is the whole time.”

In the non-conference portion of the season, CSU did exactly opposite of what is occurring in Mountain West play. They lost all six of their road matchups while winning all seven of their home games, including an emotional victory over the rival Colorado Buffaloes who came into the matchup undefeated.

The losses on the road were ugly as well with three of them being by 25 points or more to the Tulane Green Wave, Arkansas Razorbacks and Oregon Ducks. CSU was also ran off the court by the hot-shooting New Mexico State Aggies in their 13-point win over the Rams.

Despite the road woes, the Rams could rely on their home cooking and that was most evident in their last non-conference game which ended with junior Prentiss Nixon nailing a 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Long Beach State, 68-66.

But ever since that shot, Moby Madness has turned into Moby sadness.

“I’ve had teams with a lot more experience that start games out like (against Air Force), you know trying to take a little shortcut, ‘It’s just going to work out,’ type thing and we’ve been able to gather ourselves and win those games,” head coach Larry Eustachy said. “This team’s just not there yet. I don’t think it has anything to do with home or away.”

A road win finally came when the Rams took care of the 3-15 San Jose Spartans 59-52 before they returned to Fort Collins to play the San Diego State Aztecs. SDSU was picked to finish second in the Mountain West in the preseason and flexed their muscles against the Rams in a 77-68 victory.

A loss to the Aztecs was understandable for the Rams, but a win against Fresno State at home was expected as the Bulldogs had not won in Fort Collins since 1994. However, like many teams the Rams have played this year, the Bulldogs shot lights out in the 82-79 overtime victory.

Hope for a turnaround still loomed for CSU who went on the road and beat Utah State and their biggest conference rival in the Wyoming Cowboys. A home game against the Air Force Falcons would follow, a team that the Rams had not lost too since 2011, a year before head coach Larry Eustachy took over the program.

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Once again, the home rims favored the rivals as the Falcons game plan of living by the three worked in their favor despite the Rams controlling the glass and many other areas of the matchup in the 76-71 loss.

“I think we just need to stay consistent,” center Nico Carvacho said on the team’s home struggles. “I feel like we play in spurts at home but we just don’t play like we do on the road.”

With 11 games remaining in the season and the Rams currently trailing the first place Nevada Wolfpack by three-and-a-half games, wins will be crucial no matter the location. The chance to make the comeback at home is still present as well as the Rams still have to play three of the conference’s top four teams at home with Nevada, Boise State and New Mexico on the home docket.

CSU has only two regular season conference titles to their name and the last one came in 1990 as a member of the WAC. The young talent has proven themselves on the road and now they want to show the fans in Fort Collins what they are capable of doing.

The Rams will not have to wait long as they get another matchup Saturday against the UNLV Rebels, the conference’s top scoring team. The matchup will begin at 3 p.m. inside Moby Arena.

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44.