FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A showdown against No. 6 San Diego State at home is looming next week, but first, No. 9 BYU is bracing for a big battle on the road.
Don't count on the Cougars (18-1, 4-0) looking past a surging Colorado State squad tonight (7 p.m., The mtn.).
"You've got to take every game as the most important game on your schedule," said senior guard Jimmer Fredette, who leads the nation in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game. "We've gotten off to a great start so far and we want to finish well, too. We know every game is important. We can't look past (CSU) because they're a very good team. We have to win this one to make the next one important."
A sellout crowd of nearly 9,000 is expected at Moby Arena. Fans in Fort Collins are eager to see national player of the year candidate Fredette, and would like to witness an upset of a Top 10 team. Plus, this could be BYU's final trip here, with the Cougars bolting the Mountain West Conference for the West Coast Conference next season.
Not to mention the Rams (13-5, 3-1) are on a roll, having knocked off UNLV last Wednesday night in Las Vegas, 78-63.
No way CSU is sneaking up on BYU now. Though the Cougars have won eight consecutive games in the series — the average margin of victory in the past five meetings is 30 points — they have plenty of respect for the Rams.
"Our players who have played over there understand how tough it is to play there and how hard it is to come out with a win," said coach Dave Rose. "Now you're dealing with a real experienced team, a team with confidence, a team that plays really well at home."
"They're going to be very confident, we know that," Fredette said of CSU's mindset after beating UNLV. "We're going to have confidence and we need to take it away from them from the beginning."
The Rams are a well-balanced team that's strong both inside and outside.
"They may have the best scoring frontline in the league," said Rose, referring to Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin. Ogide averages a team-high 15.4 points and is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Franklin, who scored 24 points, including 18 in the second half in the win over UNLV, averages 14.7 points and is shooting 58 percent from the floor.
Rose also considers guards Adam Nigon (who shoots 48 percent from behind the arc), Dorian Green and Wed Eikmeier among the best 3-point shooters in the nation.
"They're a very, very good team and talented. They have guys who have been there for a while now," said Fredette. "Their frontline is very good with Ogide and Franklin. They have good shooters. They're an all-around improved team."
A year ago, CSU finished with a 16-16 record overall and a 5-11 mark in conference play, finishing 7th in the standings. For now, the Rams are in 3rd place in the MWC and in contention for the conference championship.
"They have so much more experience. They have a lot of wins," said Rose. "They're still in that position in the league where they're really hungry and they're really trying to prove that they're in the top half of the league. They're really talented and they play well together. Watching them (Wednesday night) it was impressive how resilient they were. UNLV kept making runs. They would catch them but never got ahead. It shows they are a group of guys playing with an edge."
NOTES: BYU has won eight consecutive games overall. ... Rose is 145-41 in his six seasons at BYU and is the program's all-time leader in winning percentage at .779 and third in wins. ... Fredette had a streak of 25 consecutive free throws made snapped last Tuesday against TCU.
Cougars on the air
No. 9 BYU (18-1,4-0) at Colorado St. (13-5,3-1)
Tonight, 7 p.m.
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM