Cougars expecting an improved CSU squad

The Cougars are preparing for a big conference showdown against a team with a tough frontcourt, and no, it isn't San Diego State. Rather, BYU will face 13-5 Colorado State on Saturday in Fort Collins. Though the Cougars have had their way with the Rams in recent years, the matchup should be a more difficult one this season.

The Rams are fresh off of a 78-63 road win this past Wednesday against a shorthanded UNLV team that was missing Tre'Von Willis. Nevertheless, it was an impressive victory, and perhaps indication that Colorado State is the third best team in the Mountain West Conference, behind only BYU and SDSU. Coach Rose said he was impressed with CSU's resilience against UNLV, as the Rams withstood some Rebel runs in the second half.

"They're much improved," Noah Hartsock said about the Rams. "Coach Miles has done a great job with them preparing them for this year, and they've played pretty well so far in conference."

"They might have the best scoring frontline in the league," said Rose. "I think 52 or 54 of their points [against UNLV] came from their frontline guys, so that's pretty impressive."

CSU starters Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide accounted for the majority of those points from the frontline, scoring a combined 42 points against the Rebels. Hartsock said it will be tough to guard them.

"It's a pretty physical matchup whenever we go there, or whenever we play them, so we expect that again," he said.

Hartsock should know, as he got banged up in last year's game at CSU after suffering a knee-to-knee collision.

Rose said that it isn't just CSU's post players that make the Rams a good team.

"Their guards are good. Dorian Green's a great point guard and [transfer Wes] Eikmeier, the shooter from Iowa State, can play, and [Adam] Nigon has turned into one of the best three-point shooters in the country, so they've got everything you need to be good."

Rose said his players that have played at CSU before know how tough it is to play there and come out with a win. However, BYU's recent head-to-head results against the Rams suggests that it typically has not been tough.

After Rose's first conference championship team lost at CSU in early 2007, the Cougars have reeled off eight straight victories against the Rams, including three in Fort Collins. In the last three seasons, the closest the Rams have come within the Cougars is 14 points. Last year, BYU beat CSU 91-47 in Provo and then 92-70 in Fort Collins.

Nevertheless, the Rams are an improved team this season. Last year they lost 70-39 at UNLV, and yet are now coming off of the aforementioned victory at UNLV this past Wednesday.

Rose noted that CSU is an experienced team that is confident and that plays well at home.

What's more, the Rams are expecting a big crowd – perhaps the biggest in a long while – to come out and cheer them on against the Cougars.

"One thing that this group is used to is playing in front of good crowds on the road, and we've been successful with that, but the crowd isn't nearly as important as the players, and us preparing for their players," said Rose.

One ace the Cougars have up their sleeve is, of course, star Jimmer Fredette. Currently the nation's leading scorer, Fredette has 13 games over the course of his career in which he has scored 30 or more points. Twelve of those 13 games have occurred away from the Marriott Center.

It seems the Fredette saves his best for games on the road or at neutral sites.

"I think the biggest thing with me is that on the road I take it as a challenge," said Fredette, who scored 36 last year at CSU. "I know that it's very, very tough to win road games in our league and anywhere especially, so I take it upon myself to be the starter, to get things going, to be aggressive."

Rose isn't worried about whether Fredette can top himself after some recent impressive scoring outbursts, namely his 47-point explosion against Utah. Rather, Rose just hopes Fredette will continue to help the team find ways to win.

"That's what he's done since he's been here. He's been in a position to find ways to help our team win games. I think that we really rely heavily on he and [Jackson Emery]. They're both playing a lot of minutes for us and hopefully we'll get good minutes out of them this week."

Leading the nation

As mentioned, Fredette currently leads the nation in scoring, with 25.8 points per game. Asked about what it would mean for him to end the season as the nation's leading scorer, Fredette shrugged off the importance of that honor.

"You know, it would be a cool thing, but it's not something that I'm looking to do. I'm just looking to help the team win, and … what I do best is score, and I'm gonna continue to score and continue to be aggressive on the offensive end. But it's not really something that I'm looking that far ahead to or anything like that, but if it happens, it would happen."

Fredette's main competitor for the scoring title – and for national player of the year awards – is UConn guard Kemba Walker. Fredette met Walker, a fellow New York native, this past summer in Las Vegas while the two played for the USA Select team that trained against the USA Men's National Team.

Walker, Fredette said, is "a very talented, good player. He's a good guy too. He was nice to be around, good competitor, and he's a very good player."

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