GAME NOTES: The 220th installment of the Border War between the Colorado State Rams and the Wyoming Cowboys, a pair of long-standing members of the Mountain West Conference, is set to go off today at Moby Arena in Fort Collins.
Wyoming rides into the encounter tied with UNLV for third place in the MWC standings with a record of 8-5, but the road from here on out has been made that much more difficult with the loss of Larry Nance Jr, the leading scorer and rebounder, with a right knee injury. The team is currently enjoying a three-game win streak, thanks to a 72-66 triumph over Fresno State at home earlier this week, but again the loss of Nance will be hard to overcome moving forward.
As for the Rams, the last month has seen them win just two games in eight chances, which is why they are now a disappointing 5-9 in conference play. On Tuesday night, the squad was taken out by Boise State at home rather convincingly, 84-72. The 84 points surrendered in the setback were the most since CSU bowed to Gonzaga (93-61) in the second game of the season.
In a relationship that dates back to 1911, the Cowboys are out in front with a 128-91 advantage. However, CSU has won three straight and seven of the last eight encounters. The teams are set to finish off the regular season against each other on March 8 in Laramie.
Nathan Sobey carried the load for the Cowboys the last time out, putting up 26 points, thanks to 15-of-17 shooting at the free-throw line, en route to the six-point win at home versus Fresno State. Nance managed to post 17 points and five rebounds, followed by Josh Adams with 10 points for a team that connected on a massive 28-of-37 at the charity stripe in the second half and outscored the visitors at the line overall by a 33-21 margin.
With Nance on the shelf the Cowboys have to find a replacement for the 14.5 ppg and 7.8 rpg he brought to the table versus league opponents this season. In addition, Nance was also by far the most aggressive when it came to blocking shots, logging 36 of their 56 rejections in 13 league bouts. The time has come for Riley Grabau and Adams to step up their efforts and improve upon their 11.5 ppg, respectively.
The Broncos picked up the pace of play at Colorado State earlier this week and the Rams simply were not prepared for the speed of the action, en route to the double-digit setback at home. Daniel Bejarano did tally 23 points in the meeting, but shot just 8-of-22 from the floor, including 1-of-8 behind the 3- point line. J.J. Avila tacked on 13 points and eight assists, followed by Carlton Hurst and Dwight Smith with 11 points each off the bench.
With four players having started every game this season for the Rams, the squad is one of the more stable groups in the MWC, even though they've been having a hard time getting into the win column of late. Avila continues to lead the team in scoring with 16.8 ppg and is first in assists with 93, but Bejarano is close behind in both categories with 16.4 ppg and 84 dishes, not to mention surging ahead of everyone else with 8.3 rpg.
The loss of Nance will be huge for the Cowboys because they don't have much in the way of experienced reserves who can step in and be a factor along the front line and in the paint. While Wyoming's outlook is certainly more gloomy now, at least the Rams have something to smile about heading into another historic meeting.
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