Stevens: Rams Look to Change Old Ways and Create a New Future by Beating Lobos

Jan. 22, 2013

New Mexico Men's Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit

Wednesday: 6 p.m. (MT) - No. 15/17 New Mexico Lobos (16-2, 3-0 MW) vs. Colorado State (15-3, 2-1) - Bob King Floor
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

They are a pack of motivated and talented Ram seniors coming into The Pit with ill intent and the desire to prove that this Colorado State team is different - and maybe special.

That it is a team that can win in The Pit.

That it can beat a ranked and winning Mountain West team on the road.

CSU Coach Larry Eustachy points out that in in past three seasons the Rams have only a single Mountain West road win (vs. UNLV) against a MW team with a winning record.

"That's pretty staggering and we're trying to change that," said Eustachy.

To change that sour road history in The Pit at 6 p.m., Wednesday against the No. 15/17 New Mexico Lobos definitely would be a signature win for the Rams.

It also could help out a whole bunch of other Mountain West teams looking up at the Steve Alford Lobos.

New Mexico has bolted out of the Mountain West gate and a win over the Rams would give UNM a two-game lead over a dog-eat-dog conference that desperately needs somebody to take a bite out of the Lobos.

The Rams are capable. They have sharp teeth. They crash the boards with a passion. They are 15-3 and 2-1 in the Mountain with a win over UNLV and an amazing 79-40 crushing of Air Force. The Rams lost in overtime at San Diego State. This is a team to take very seriously.

The Rams have two board beasts inside in 6-5 Pierce Hornung (10.1) and 6-10 Iverson Colton (9.0) and are winning that glass battle by an astounding plus 13.8. They are winning games by 14.9 points.

"Obviously, one of the emphasis when you play Colorado State is what you do on the backboards," said Alford.

The Lobos have an edge on CSU in numbers, depth. The Rams are not an exceptionally deep team (seven key players), but they start five seniors motivated in their drive to prove that New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State are not the cream of the Mountain.

"We're going to get everybody's best shot," said Alford.

Yeah, that's the way it is when you are a Top 20 team and that's the way it is when you edging closer to a two-game lead only four games into league play.

Eustachy makes a simple point as to why the Lobos are 16-2 and atop the Mountain: "They play the right way," he said.

Yeah, and so do the Rams. CSU is 15-3 because they have taken some of the fundamental principles of basketball and pulled them close to their chest. They honor possessions. They take good shots. They rebound. They play defense. They play hard.

The Rams are not the most talented team in the league. But they do things right. If they shoot well, they might be unbeatable - just like the Lobos.

The Rams get 14.4 points per game from Iverson, 12.3 from point guard Dorian Green, 11.6 from quick Greg Smith and 11.5 from Wes Eikmeier. Hornung brings a 9.6 scoring average with his monster 10.1 boards per game. Smith and Daniel Bejarano combine to average 11.7 boards.

Consider these Ram/Lobo stats:

  • The Rams score more points than the Lobos and allow fewer points than the Lobos.
  • The Rams shoot a better percentage than Lobos from the field, the line, and 3-point range.
  • The Rams have a better field goal percentage on defense, a better board percentage, and a better assists-to-turnover ratio.

    "Our team is getting a little bit better every day," said Eustachy. "Our team is understanding that, in the past, we had to shoot it well to win and now we don't have to, with how we try to play."

    The Rams are trying to play basketball the right way - the Lobo way. They are trying to win by honoring those basic principles and tossing in honest effort and court smarts. If you win most of the little battles, you often win the scoreboard.

    Consider these telling stats from CSU's win over UNLV:

    The Rams shot 38.9 percent from the floor (for the game) and UNLV shot 55.6 percent in the second half - and CSU won, despite only out-rebounding the Rebs by two.

    The Rams did it the Lobo way. They went 19-of-21 from the line while UNLV went 9-of-14.

    "If we don't play well on Wednesday, we don't have a chance to win," Alford said of the Rams' charge into The Pit."

    "They are very similar to the best teams we have played to date. Anytime you start five seniors, that is extremely dangerous. CSU is a very dangerous team. They guard you and they are the best rebounding team we have played to date."

    What all this means for Lobo fans is that this isn't your granddaddy's CSU vs. Lobo game. These Rams have sharp horns and a target in mind. The past they want to change includes a win over Lobos.

    These Rams should come out like a fist - which is what they'll get back from Lobos.

    If you are a basketball purist, you can't help but hope the Lobos and the Rams play at a high level Wednesday and create a blue-collar showcase featuring two teams "playing the right way" and trying to get the other team not to play the right way.

    It should be a Pit classic.

    Coach Craig Neal


    Probable StartersHTPositionSeason Statistics
    10 - Kendall Williams 6-3Guard14.9 Pts. - 4.6 Asts.
    21 - Tony Snell 6-7Wing12.1 Pts. - 2.9 Asts.
    53- Alex Kirk 7-0Center11.2 Pts. - 7.4 Rebs.
    03 - Hugh Greenwood 6-3Guard7.4 Pts. - 5.1 Rebs.
    04 - Chad Adams 6-6Forward5.4 Pts. - 4.1 Rebs.

    The NM BenchHTPositionSeason Statistics
    13 - Jamal Fenton 5-9Guard4.2 Pts. - 1.3 Asts.
    40 - Demetrius Walker 6-2Guard5.2 Pts. - 1.4 Rebs.
    41 - Cameron Bairstow 6-9Post8.2 Pts. - 5.1 Rebs.
    01 - Cleveland Thomas 6-3Guard0.9 Pts. - 0.9 Rebs.
    23 - Nick Banyard 6-8Forward1.1 Pts. - 1.8 Rebs.
    02 - Chris Perez 6-1Guard1.0 Pts. - 0.0 Rebs.
    24 - Kory Alford 6-4Guard0.2 Pts. - 0.2 Rebs.

    Coaches: Steve Alford (head), Craig Neal, Duane Broussard, Drew Adams