Buffs Set for Tussle with Rams

Colorado faces its first road test of the 2005-06 season when the Buffs travel north to Fort Collins to take on in-state rival Colorado State Monday. The game tips off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on FSN. Inside, a conversation with CU senior Chris Copeland about the task of playing the Rams, and their 7-foot big man Jason Smith, plus a preview of the matchup.

Senior forward Chris Copeland came out strong in the Buffs' season-opening win at home over UNC-Wilmington on Friday. Copeland went 5-of-6 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He was also 8-of-9 from the foul line en route to a 20-point performance.

Next up for Copeland and his teammates is a road test Monday night at Colorado State (8 p.m., FSN). The Rams are led by 7-0 sophomore Jason Smith, who scored 26 points in CSU's win over Northern Colorado Friday.

BSN: Your shot was really falling the other night. Where is that confidence coming from?
Chris Copeland:
Definitely, my teammates are helping by having confidence in me. They trust me to shoot the ball, they want me to shoot the ball. That's helping me to go out there and shoot with confidence and not worry … the guys expect it and know that I can do it.

BSN: How much have you thought about this being your senior year, your last go around?
Every day. Every day you think about it. But at the same time you try not to. You try to focus like every other year. You try to work hard and try to make it a good one. But it's still on the brain.

BSN: Jason Smith, you might end up guarding him Monday night. What kind of challenge does he pose?
He's big. I've seen a few highlights on him, but I haven't actually seen a full game. So I couldn't tell you a lot about him, but from what I've seen, he's definitely a very smooth player. Especially for a guy his size. You don't see a lot of guys like that. It's definitely going to be a challenge for Andy (Osborn) and I and all the other guys in the post that are going to be playing against him. But I think we're going to be ready for it.

BSN: Is Moby Arena a tough place to play?
Yeah. Probably more because it's Colorado, it's an in-state rivalry. It's probably tougher than any other team would have going in there. There's a lot of pressure. It's a big game, the crowd gets into it.

More on the Rams
CSU is 1-0 after beating Northern Colorado. Five new faces were in the CSU starting lineup from the one that started vs. Colorado a year ago, a game Colorado won 89-83. They include Smith, juco transfer guard Corey Lewis and juco transfer forward Michael Harrison, as well as a pair of freshmen guards Ryan Brown and Stephan Gilling. Harrison had 15 points and 11 boards in the win over Northern Colorado.

The Buffs have won seven-of-10 contests over their in-state rival during Ricardo Patton's tenure, including five in a row. Two of those losses have come at Moby Arena. Patton expects a dogfight.

"It's a tough play to play because they always play extremely hard," Patton said before Sunday's team practice. "Coach (Dale) Layer does a good job of getting those guys ready to compete. Anytime you have an in-state rivalry, it's going to be tough wherever you play it."

Patton said he wasn't yet sure who would earn the duty of guarding Smith, the 7-footer from Kersey, Colo., who is gaining some attention for his inside-outside play. Smith blocked seven shots and scored 26 on Northern Colorado. Patton said both CU starting big men Chris Copeland and Andy Osborn would probably get a shot to find some success with the chore early on.

"Anytime you play against a guy that size and a guy that good, it poses quite a few problems on the defensive end for us," Patton said. "But it also poses problems on the offensive end, because he's a guy that can change shots. They've been extending their defense a little bit because they have that shot-blocker in the back end that can alter some shots, and can erase some mistakes."

Probable Starters
F Chris Copeland, Sr., 6-8, 235, 20.0 ppg
F Andy Osborn, Sr., 6-9, 225, 10.0, 8.0 rpg
G Jayson Obazuaye, Sr., 6-2, 205, 7.0
G Richard Roby, So., 6-6, 195, 14.0, 4.0 apg
PG Dominique Coleman, Jr., 6-3, 185, 7.0

Colorado State
F Jason Smith, So., 7-0, 230, 26.0 ppg
F Michael Harrison, Jr., 6-9, 215, 15.0, 11.0 rpg
G Corey Lewis, Jr., 6-0, 170, 8.0, 4.0 apg
G Ryan Brown, Fr., 6-1, 200, 4.0
G Stephan Gilling, Fr., 6-2, 195, 0.0

Through the games of Nov. 19, Colorado was No. 1 in the nation in RPI, according to Ken Pomeroy's web site: RPI Index.

Of course, the ratings change almost daily as games are played, but the fact that CU beat a team in UNC-Wilmington who already had wins over Butler, Wyoming and Northwestern, looks good now, and probably won't lose its luster down the road.

Speaking of CU's schedule, in case you missed it, UC-Irvine knocked off No. 13 Stanford in convincing fashion over the weekend. The Buffs host UC-Irvine Dec. 18. Meanwhile, following Monday night's games, the Buffs play two teams away from Coors who were in the NCAA Tournament last spring — St. Mary's (Pepsi Center) on Nov. 26 and at Penn, Nov. 29.

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