College Basketball: Louisville's next foe a 'relentless' rebounding team
Luke Hancock, center, celebrates with Louisville teammate Tim Henderson during the second half of the Cardinals' 79-48 victory Thursday in an NCAA tournament second-round game in Lexington. (Clay Jackson / January 23, 2013)
The Rams displayed their dominance on the glass in their 84-72 win over Missouri in a second-round game at Rupp Arena, outrebounding the Tigers 42-19. And senior Colton Iverson said it is going to take a similar effort on the glass and on defense Saturday when they face top-seeded Louisville to help negate the Cardinals’ pressure.
“Obviously, they’re a great team, talented, big, physical. We know it’s going to be tough. They’re the number one team in the nation for a reason,” said Iverson, who pulled down 13 rebounds. “We knew Missouri was a good rebounding team coming into tonight and we really emphasized it, and if we can do that on Saturday against Louisville, it will give us our best shot to win.
“We’re relentless on the boards, offensively and defensively. We focus on defense and rebounding and that gives us our best chance to win. Obviously, we’re not the most talented team, the most athletic, but we work hard and we’re relentless on the boards and defensive end.”
Eighth-seeded Colorado State (26-8) averages 40.4 rebounds per game and outrebounds its opponents by 12 per game. Pierce Hornung had eight rebounds against Missouri and averages 9.2 boards.
Louisville had an NCAA¿tournament-record 20 steals and forced 27 turn-overs in its win over North Carolina A&T. The Cardinals are second in the nation in steals at 10.74 per game.
Colorado State guard Jon Octeus, who was one of five players in double figures with 12 points Thursday, said he thinks the Rams are experienced enough to handle the Cardinals’ full-court pressure.
“We’re going to prepare for that.¿We’ve done a good job of practicing against each other, pressuring each other. So I think we’ll be able to handle all the pressure they bring,” Octeus said. “I like the way they picked up full court, and they work together as team, they play really great together as a team.”
Rams guard Wes Eikmeier, who had 11 points, said Louisville reminds him of some old teams from their Mountain West Conference rival, UNLV.
“The relentless pressure, there’s nobody that really plays like that. I said earlier it reminds me for Lon Kruger’s UNLV¿teams that we used to play against. Against that pressure, if you don’t take care of the ball it’s tough to win,” he said.
“I think we can win, just by our performance tonight. I know they like to press for 40 minutes. But with our type of game and the way we play and our experience at all five positions, I think it sets up perfectly for these type situations.”
Saturday’s game will effectively be a road game for the Rams, as Louisville drew a large crowd in Rup Arena on Thursday. Iverson, who had just four points against Missouri but leads the team in points (14.7) and rebounds (9.8) per game, said his squad is ready for the challenge.
“We know it’s going to be tough. They’ve got great fans and great team. And we couldn’t be happier to be playing them in the second round,” he said. “I guess we should thank the selection committee for our eight seed.”
Eikmeier said the Rams, who set a school record for wins and got their first NCAA win in 24 years, are used to being the underdogs, and Saturday will be no different.
“We’ve been counted out all year long. And people were counting us out even when we were playing well. I don’t think that we got the credit we deserve,” said Eikmeier, who averages 12.7 points per game. “So it will be familiar terrority for sure. And I think based on the way we played last year, we’d be pretty disappointed if it ended the next game.”
Guard Dorian Green, who scored a season-high 26 points and is Colorado State’s second-leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, said the Rams have to embrace the challenge of playing Louisville.
“I think we’ve just got to love it. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and something we’ll remember forever,”¿Green said. “We’ve just got to enjoy it and come out ready to play for 40 minutes and play together and be aggressive from the tip.”