Colorado St.-UNLV Preview
After Colorado State kept its roll going with a tough road win over the weekend, coach Larry Eustachy's team appears to have another difficult matchup in store.
Looking to move into a first-place tie atop the Mountain West, the No. 22 Rams try for a two-game season sweep of UNLV, which puts its 13-game home winning streak on the line Wednesday night.
On the brink of matching the second-highest win total in school history, Colorado State (21-4, 8-2) continues to rise with each passing week. Three days after getting by San Diego State 66-60, the Rams posted their sixth consecutive victory Saturday, 89-86 at Air Force. They won a season-high seven straight Dec. 17-Jan. 5.
Dorian Green scored 22 points to lead all five starters in double figures as Colorado State shot 53.8 percent and outrebounded the Falcons 39-23.
"We did a good job of not letting the environment affect our game, but we certainly can improve quite a bit on what we did today," said Pierce Hornung, who had 13 points and a season high-tying 16 boards. "It was a great environment with a sellout crowd, and their fans were nuts."
While Colorado State wasn't fazed Saturday, it faces another daunting task in Las Vegas. The Runnin' Rebels (19-7, 6-5) have won 33 of 35 on their own court, including 13 straight by an average of 16.3 points.
The Rams beat UNLV 66-61 on Jan. 19 behind Green's season-best 24 points, but they've dropped nine of 10 on the road in this series, including an 82-63 defeat last Feb. 1. Colorado State hasn't swept the Rebels since taking both meetings in 2000-01.
A win in this game would be especially important for the Rams before Saturday's much-anticipated showdown versus No. 16 New Mexico. Colorado State sits one-half game behind the league-leading Lobos.
"I'm talking to our team about being great - not good, but great," Eustachy said. "I've had two great teams, and I'd like for them to be my third great team. We've got a long way to go to do it, but I think they're willing to do it.
"We want to be special, and they all buy into it."
UNLV hasn't quite lived up to expectations due to its road struggles, but it continued its home streak with Saturday's 72-70 win over San Diego State. Freshman standout Anthony Bennett recorded 21 points and 12 rebounds while Khem Birch scored 16 for the Rebels, who held on after forcing a turnover in the closing seconds.
"They're a big part of what we're doing," coach Dave Rice said of Bennett and Birch, who combined for eight blocks. "One thing we need to do moving forward is be a desperate team at the start of the game, the middle of the game and the end of the game, whatever the score may be."
The Rebels have won five of their last eight against Top 25 opponents, but Rice knows his team will have its hands full again with Colorado State.
"Great opportunity for us, but again, a tremendous challenge," he said. "They're a fantastic basketball team."
Another big game from Bennett could prove key for UNLV. The Rebels are 15-2 when he scores at least 16 points compared to 4-5 when he has 15 or fewer.
The Ontario native, who ranks second in the Mountain West with 18.0 points per game, scored just nine against the Rams last month.