A year ago, the Rams stunned the college basketball world by winning the Mountain West Conference tournament and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. A match up with powerful Duke in the first round produced a thriller that ended the season, but inflated the hopes of Rams fans who saw the season's finish as the start of great things for the CSU program.
That may yet happen, but it won't happen this season. Unless that lightning thing happens again.
A 67-61 loss at Wyoming assured the Rams a last-place finish in this year's MWC regular season, and left them with the prospect of playing regular season champ Air Force in the first game of the league's post-season tourney in Denver. At 11-15 on the year, and 3-10 in conference play, CSU's only hope for any post season action is to win the conference tourney for a second consecutive year.
That appears unlikely.
CSU led Wyo 50-44 with eight minutes left, and was having success against Cowboys star point guard Jay Straight, who scored only six points. But the rest of the Pokes picked up the slack. Reserve David Rottinghaus scored 18 points, keying the comeback with a rare four point play that put Wyo in control.
Wyoming (11-15 overall, 4-9 in MWC play) ended a two-game losing streak, while the Rams remained winless in conference road games and lost its seventh game in a row.
After the two teams battled to a 31-all tie in a first half, CSU worked up that six point edge behind nine points from Matt Williams, who led the Rams with 15 points.
But Wyoming ran off eight unanswered points to start a 19-8 run, during which Rottinghaus scored 12 points, including the 4-point play in which he was fouled on a 3-point shot and sank the ensuing free throw. The run put the Cowboys ahead 63-58 with 1:58 remaining.
The Cowboys kept the Rams from scoring in the last 1:17 while they put the game out of reach with free throws.
Rottinghaus was the only Cowboy to score in double figures. He finished with three 3-pointers out of four attempts and hit 9-of-13 from the free throw line.
David Adams and Dion Sherrell contributed 9 points apiece.
Center Matt Nelson had 14 points and Ronnie Clark 10 for Colorado State, which played without starting guard Michael Morris, who sat out because of an ankle injury.
In fact, injuries played a large part in CSU's lost season. Nelson, who missed a large portion of the conference season with a knee injury, got his first start since January 26th. CSU coach Dale Layer used his 16th different starting line-up against the Cowboys.