UNLV BASKETBALL:

CSU challenged in building foundation for future

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Justin M. Bowen

Joe Darger and Andy Ogide battle for position after a free throw Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels defeated Colorado State 89-70 for their second straight win.

Cruise Control

UNLV won its second straight game by double figures, beating Colorado State 89 to 70 on Saturday night.

UNLV vs. Colorado State

Tre'Von Willis blows past the Colorado State defense Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels defeated Colorado State 89-70 for their second straight win.  Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: Not quite like last time

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Ryan Greene and Rob 'The Ostrich' Miech discuss UNLV's neat and tidy 89-70 revenge-fueled victory on Saturday night over Colorado State. The guys talk about the Rebels again successfully carrying out the '40 minutes of heck' plan of attack, Tre'Von Willis playing the hero again and take a look ahead to Wednesday's challenge at Wyoming.

Most first-year coaches don't get a contract extension after a 7-25, 0-16 in conference play season.

But then again, most first-year coaches at least get a team to play with.

Before wondering why Colorado State University locked up head coach Tim Miles through the 2012-13 season with his record, consider the facts: When Miles left North Dakota State for the head coaching job in Fort Collins, Colo., he thought he was getting a team with 13 players on scholarship. A couple months after arriving, however, that number was down to two. Three quit, three were kicked off, two were released from their letter of intent, one got in trouble and was expelled, and the team's leader, Jason Smith, bolted for the NBA draft.

"We didn't inherit a group, we had to go out and find a group," Miles said. "We were essentially an expansion team. You've got other teams in the league just adding pieces to the puzzle. They had a core nucleus of guys -- we didn't have anything. It was a huge task and it's been stressful trying to stay patient and find the right type of guys."

The team's rebuilding process has been a struggle to say the least. Since Miles arrived, the team is 15-42 with a 3-24 conference record.

After taking a huge step forward as a program exactly one month ago with a win over UNLV, the team's first over the Rebels since 2003, the Rams were reminded Saturday of how far they still have to go to be a competitive force in the Mountain West Conference after a 70-89 drubbing by the Rebels.

"It was frustrating, because I think we match up well with this team, just looking at how we play and how they play," Rams senior guard Marcus Walker said. "But once you're down by so much, it's kind of hard to get yourself back in a game."

In light of their unique situation, the Rams tried just about everything to get themselves competitive again in the past two years. First, they sought out players looking to transfer out of Division I programs, which has led to a mix of players who saw time at Nebraska (Walker), Ole Miss (Andy Ogide) and Purdue (Dan Vandervieren).

The second tactic was a little more unusual: Holding a tryout in 2007, open to every male in CSU's 25,500 enrollment. Sophomore Adam Nigon, who has made seven starts for the Rams this year, and junior Mike Annese ended up making the cut.

"You prefer not to do it," Miles said. "But at the same time we felt like we needed the help. And we thought that in a school as big as CSU, there may be a player out there that can help us some. I told those guys that I don't want you to be on the team just to be on the team -- find ways to help our program. When you see a guy like Adam Nigon, he demonstrates that."

Now that the Rams have established a group of players to build off of, Miles said the recruitment process will turn back toward high school talent.

They may be off to a good start, as true freshman Jesse Carr, of Ainsworth, Neb., has settled into a spot in the starting lineup. The Rams also have received letters of intent from three high school players for next year, including a highly sought 7-footer, Trevor Williams, from Denver.

"There's no question that just because of the radical nature of what went on that we had to go get whatever we could in juco transfers, whatever it might be," Miles said. "I prefer to build my program around high school players and an occasional transfer. I'm all about four-year guys and we're excited to develop that potential."

After starting a program from scratch, the past year and a half has been as much about recreating the tradition of men's basketball at CSU as it's been about turning in wins. The team believes the signs of a future successful program are there, but by the looks of things Saturday night, it's still a long road ahead.

"It's been tough at times, but I guess it's just how you look at it," Walker said. "You can either whine about it, or you can move on and try to help the program. Every team has to have an identity, and we want to set a blue-collar tradition of going out hard and willing to win the hard way. That's what I'm trying to do in my last year here."

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