Nationally ranked by the Associated Press for the first time since 1954, the Colorado State Rams are set to battle with the San Diego State Aztecs in a Mountain West Conference showdown at Moby Arena on Wednesday night.
The Rams, currently second in the MWC standings with a record of 6-2, have won four straight outings overall thanks to a 73-69 triumph over Nevada a week ago on the road. When it comes to playing at home in Fort Collins, the Rams have not experienced defeat in quite some time, rattling off a school-record 26 straight victories dating back to November of 2011 when the team was beaten, ironically enough, by Southern Miss and head coach Larry Eustachy who is now the head man with CSU.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs are a squad that was considered one of the leaders in the conference heading into the 2012-13 campaign and while the team's strong opening to the schedule seemed to prove that, there have been a few bumps in the road when it comes to league outings.
However, over the weekend SDSU did deliver another masterful performance against Fresno State, 75-53, the team's second straight win and the fourth in the last five contests, not to mention the 33rd straight triumph over an opponent from the state of California.
Colorado State dropped the first meeting of the season with the Aztecs by a final of 79-72 in overtime, albeit after battling back from an 18-point deficit at halftime. Despite the loss, the Rams still own a slight advantage in the all-time series with SDSU, 36-34.
For the third time in the last four victories the Aztecs defeated a foe by at least 21 points as they crushed visiting Fresno State by 22 at Viejas Arena on Saturday. Jamaal Franklin was a big part of that success as he recorded 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds as he reached both 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career in the process. James Rahon chipped in 14 points as well and Winston Shepard pitched in with 10 points off the bench as the team held the visitors to a paltry 29.3 percent shooting from the floor.
A candidate for player of the year honors in the MWC, Franklin has been a steady influence for the program this season with his 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. As someone who has made almost twice as many free throws (129-of-166) as any of his teammates has even attempted through 23 games, Franklin is much more of a force in the paint rather than out on the perimeter where he is shooting only 26.2 percent at the moment. Chase Tapley checks in with 13.6 ppg as he helps to give the squad a presence on the outside with his 47 triples through 22 appearances.
Excluding Pierce Hornung who played just three minutes due to illness, the starters for the Rams were the reason why the team was able to get by Nevada on the road the last time out. Greg Smith put together a double-double with a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds, as did Colton Iverson as he tallied 10 points and cleared a career-high 16 boards in Reno. Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green both tallied 11 points in a game that experienced 12 ties and eight lead changes.
The defense for the Rams has been claiming much of the attention this season, particularly in conference action with the group holding league foes to just 37.4 percent shooting from the floor and 60.1 ppg. The effort on the glass has been extraordinary with CSU beating the competition by more than 13 rebounds per contest, thanks to Iverson who is averaging 11.1 rpg to go along with 12.1 ppg. Sharing the responsibility on offense are Eikmeier (13.9 ppg), Green (12.5 ppg) and Smith (10.9 ppg) who have this program humming along unlike any version in the last six decades.