Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
UNLV vs. CSU
UNLV Rebels (14-4, 2-2) vs Colorado State Rams (11-6, 2-2)
Where: Moby Arena
When: 7:00 p.m.
Coaches: Lon Kruger is 126-57 in his six seasons at UNLV and 444-290 in 24 overall seasons; Tim Miles is 27-53 in his three seasons at CSU and 239-185 in 15 overall seasons.
Series: UNLV leads 29-8
Last time: UNLV won, 89-70, in Las Vegas on Feb. 14, 2009.
Line: UNLV by 6
TV/Radio: The Mtn./ESPN Radio 1100-AM
G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 180) 10.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.6 rpg
G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215) 7.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
G Tre'Von Willis (6-4, 195) 16.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.2 apg
F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210) 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Matt Shaw (6-8, 240) 6.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Bench: G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 7.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg; F Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 4.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190) 3.5 ppg; F Brice Massamba (6-10, 240) 4.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg; G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200) 5.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg; G Steve Jones (6-1, 220) 1.9 ppg.
What to watch: Is this the night in which a third consistent scoring threat emerges? Many think it should be Derrick Jasper, and he potentially could score plenty inside with his swooping drives to the bucket against the Rams.
G Dorian Green (6-2, 170) 13.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
G Adam Nigon (6-3, 175) 8.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F Pierce Hornung (6-5, 200) 3.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F Travis Franklin (6-7, 215) 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F Andy Ogide (6-9, 245) 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Bench: F Andre McFarland (6-6, 225) 7.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg; F Greg Smith (6-6, 200) 6.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg; F Travis Busch (6-4, 220) 4.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg; G Harvey Perry (6-5, 205) 4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg.
What to watch: The Rams come in lacking in quality backcourt depth. That said, Adam Nigon, who had 11 points and five steals last year at home against UNLV, will need to be super-productive if CSU has a chance, as will Dorian Green.
For Dorian Green, playing college basketball down the street from his high school gym would have been the easy choice.
The Lawrence, Kan., native could have pursued a preferred walk-on position at Kansas — a college hoops powerhouse just two years removed from winning a national championship. But that essentially meant a seat at the end of the bench and some mop-up minutes at the end of blowout victories.
Celebrity status in his hometown, wearing the jersey and running out of the hallowed Allen Fieldhouse tunnel are among the pomp and frills that come with that, too.
Yet the 6-foot-2 Green went another direction, as there was no guarantee that he'd ever take off his warm-ups in a legitimate role.
For a kid who enjoyed a stellar career at Lawrence High, which included leading a Cinderella charge to the 6A state title game as a junior, settling was not too appealing.
Considering other offers from the likes of Wagner and Missouri-Kansas City, Colorado State felt like the best fit. Not only because Green felt as if Fort Collins felt a lot like Lawrence, but because of CSU's fledgling program, too.
"I wanted to go somewhere and make an impact and play important minutes, minutes that would impact the game," Green said. "I just wanted to compete for a job. Sometimes I play with a little bit of edge because I wanted to prove that I was capable of playing.
"I felt like this program was on the rise and I wanted to be part of that rebuilding. I wanted to come in and make an impact and rebuild this thing."
By accepting a challenge rather than comfort, Green has flourished so far in his freshman season at Colorado State.
Green leads the Rams (11-6 overall, 2-1 Mountain West) into tonight's 7 p.m. clash with UNLV (14-4, 2-2). He is tops on the squad in minutes (33.2 per game), scoring (13.1 ppg) and assists (2.3 apg). Green's 33.2 minutes per game is the second-highest average in the Mountain West, putting him behind only Air Force's Evan Washington (34.8).
Granted, those numbers also are accompanied by some which symbolize the growing pains of any college freshman.
He also leads the Rams in turnovers per game (2.8) and is shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor.
Still, Green can sense that he's received the respect of his elder teammates, more for the all-around abilities he's shown along with his work ethic — not just his scoring.
"It doesn't matter who's scoring," he said. "I think if you're making an impact, people are going to respect you."
The key, however, is that he's learning by doing rather than by watching.
That opportunity came a bit sooner than expected when Jesse Carr, who suffered a career-threatening hip injury late last season, wasn't ready to go in time for the start of his sophomore campaign.
Carr, oddly enough, was in Green's shoes a year ago when he was handed the keys to the Rams' attack as a freshman.
"I didn't really expect the beginning to be like this," Green said. "I have a lot of things I have to get better at and work on. I'm trying to learn as we go, learn what I can add to my game."
Like any freshman, Green has seen his share of ups and downs already. He showed how well he can produce under pressure with 21 points in a 77-62 victory Dec. 10 over rival Colorado. He also has looked raw, including a 2-for-10 shooting performance with no assists and two turnovers in a 75-63 loss Dec. 22 at UCLA.
The Rams, in general, have been the same.
While they have yet to lose on their home floor at Moby Arena this season, they've been exposed at times by big-name opponents.
The most recent example was a 91-47 loss Saturday at BYU, which coach Tim Miles on his Twitter feed called a "debacle."
For as much headway as CSU made in gaining some respect around the league with a solid non-conference season and wins over Wyoming and Air Force opening league play, the Rams realize that to truly crack the upper echelon of the MWC, losing by 44 only hurts that effort.
Their next chance to get some respect comes against the Rebels, who the Rams defeated in Fort Collins a year ago, 71-69.
"We felt like we didn't compete and didn't execute very well," Green said of the BYU game. "I think, quite frankly, it's just winning (which will help CSU gain respect). If you're going to be up there, you're going to have to beat them and compete with them every night."
Plenty of the pressure to turn things back around for the Rams will fall on the shoulders of both Green and fellow starting guard Adam Nigon, who had a career night defensively in last year's victory over UNLV with five steals along with his 11 points.
The reason Green and Nigon will be relied upon so heavily is that, as the program continues to build, CSU doesn't have tons of depth in its backcourt rotation.
"They're going to pressure and deny you defensively," he said of UNLV, which is guard-heavy. "They're also going to attack the basket, I think. That's a big thing about them. We've got to guard the ball."
But it's just another challenge which Green gladly welcomes.
Notes on CSU
• The Rams feature a highly productive frontcourt duo of juniors Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin. Ogide, a Mississippi transfer, averages 11.9 points and 5.8 boards for CSU, while Franklin's numbers are almost identical at 11.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
• The Colorado State roster features a pair of Las Vegas natives in senior guard Harvey Perry and junior forward Andre McFarland. McFarland averages seven points, while Perry is averaging 4.3.