When you're staying less than two hours away from the University of Arkansas campus and the Razorbacks are playing in the Sugar Bowl at the same time Colorado State is hosting the Border War against Wyoming, local bar tenders are reluctant to change the station on the TV from ESPN to The Mtn.
Though I expected this, I was still a little bummed when my request was rejected on Tuesday and had to listen to the Border War streaming online.
Much to my surprise when I tuned into the game midway through the first half, the Rams were getting thrashed by Wyoming's Desmar Jackson andAfam Muojeke from long range. The Cowboys aren't a team known for its perimeter game, but that was the case Tuesday night … at least for a while.
For the most part, the Rams couldn't do anything offensively.
Travis Franklin missed three free throw attempts and Andy Ogide was limited inside, being double- and triple-teamed.
Moe Wiltz was a nice spark off the bench with four free throws, but the main reason CSU stayed in the game was the play of Adam Nigon, who scored 15 points in the first half with 5 of 6 three-pointers (all in the first 12 minutes).
The first 15 minutes of the game looked like the Border War was going to be a disaster for CSU, because if the Rams lost, it would be back-to-back bad losses. For Wyoming, however, it would by far be the Pokes' biggest victory of the season.
However Tim Miles and the Rams stuck to their bread and butter and finished the half on an 11-0 run, down only 39-37 (sophomore Greg Smith had 7 points in that stretch).
That run continued into the second half as CSU took a 42-39 lead and never looked back.
It was a game the Rams couldn't afford to lose. They knew it, and made sure it didn't happen as CSU took the first Border War of 2011, 73-60 as the second half was pretty much smooth sailing.
It would be easy for anyone to look at this game be surprised by the score. Looking at the talent, coaching and performance during non-conference play this season, Wyoming is an opponent CSU arguably should have blown out. Don't get me wrong, Jackson and Muojeke are great players and JayDee Luster can be streaky, but the Pokes haven't been able to put it all together this season. CSU has.
However, with the Border War being a rivalry game, that adds an X-Factor that can't really be explained beyond the fact players want to win more than normal.
Now, when it comes tournament selection time, whether that's NIT or NCAA, the committees aren't going to look at whether or not a loss was to a rival. A loss is a loss and a win is a win, so thank goodness for Ram fans that CSU didn't falter.
CSU ended up with a 26-point turnaround, as its largest deficit was 13, which equaled the Rams' largest lead and final score margin.
I think it's pretty obvious that Nigon is named MVP of the Border War. The Broomfield-native scored a team-high 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc. He also brought down 4 rebounds and dished out one assist.
The Sixth Man
Give this award to sophomore forward Pierce Hornung. He recorded a game-high 12 rebounds, 5 of which were on the offensive glass. Sure, Hornung might have only scored 2 points, but CSU isn't exactly a great rebounding team and he helped lead the Rams to a 10-point margin on the boards.
Jan. 12 - at New Mexico (11-3, 0-0 MWC)
Jan. 15 - TCU (9-6, 0-0)
Jan. 19 - at UNLV (12-2, 0-0)