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Colorado State Vs. Utah Preview: Rams Looking To Keep Tournament Hopes Alive

(Sports Network)The Colorado State Rams try to put an end to a season-long three- game slide tonight, as they host fellow Mountain West Conference member Utah at Moby Arena.

While the Rams probably weren't going to contend for the top spot in the MWC against the likes of BYU and San Diego State, the thought of finishing third in the standings was always a possibility, but that was before the program bowed in three straight outings. On Saturday, the Rams were stunned by Air Force in a 74-57 decision on the road, dropping them to just 8-6 in league play and two games behind UNLV for third in the standings with the MWC Tournament just around the corner.

As for the Runnin' Utes, they've been all over the map with their lack of consistency this season and have gone from losing five in a row to posting three straight wins. Utah last took the floor on February 22nd when it slipped by TCU in a 50-48 final at home, which means the team is now shooting for its first four-game win streak of 2010-11 and is trying to reach .500 in conference with this game and a meeting against UNLV on Saturday still on tap.

Utah lead the all-time series with the Rams by a commanding 100-45 margin, but it is CSU that is on a roll at the moment with three straight victories over the Utes. In addition to sweeping the season series a year ago, the Rams also won the first meeting of this season by a score of 74-68 in late January.

Matched up against a very weak TCU team which has been missing its top player for a good chunk of the season, the Utes almost let one slip away last week before pulling out the two-point home win at the Huntsman Center. Josh Watkins tallied 14 points and J.J. O'Brien another 13 for the hosts as they survived an ugly 32.0 percent shooting from the field and a mere 2-of-13 behind the three-point line. Luckily the defense for the Utes held the visitors to just 32.7 percent from the field and 1-of-8 out on the perimeter. Will Clyburn, the leading scorer for the Utes this season with his 17.9 ppg, came off the bench and made just one of his six shots as he ended up with seven points. Clyburn, who is also first on the team with his 8.1 rpg, gives the Utes their best option out on the perimeter where he's made good on 40.6 percent of his chances. Josh Watkins has responded with 14.2 ppg, which means between the two of them they account for a huge chunk of the unit's 69.0 ppg this season.

Andy Ogide showed up and was on target for the Rams in their road test against Air Force on Saturday, coming within a point of matching his career high as he tallied 27 points, but no one else made much of an impact for the visitors in the 17-point loss. Ogide converted 9-of-13 shots from the floor and posed a great threat to the Falcons in the paint as he cleared 10 rebounds, but Colorado State failed to attack the academy in the paint where they tend to be most vulnerable. In fact, once CSU became desperate the team let fly with a staggering 29 attempts beyond the arc, making just five. In conference games this season, Ogide leads the team in both scoring (18.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg), hitting on 58.4 percent of his field goal attempts which is considerably higher than the team's overall accuracy of 45.3 percent at this stage. Travis Franklin's 10.6 ppg in league action provides for the second- best scoring option for the Rams, which doesn't say much for a team that is trying to finish strong.

Hopefully the Rams have learned from the many mistakes they made against Air Force and can apply that knowledge towards holding off the Runnin' Utes tonight at home.