Two different Colorado State University-Pueblo squads showed up to play Friday night in its first game of the Chuck Stephens Classic. One team played with intensity, heart and passion feeding off the Massari Arena home crowd. The other played timid as five individuals rather than one team.
Unfortunately for the Pack, it was the latter that found the majority of the playing time as CSU-Pueblo lost 61-59 to Johnson & Wales University.
The Pack found themselves within four minutes of pulling their season win percentage to .500 with their first home win of the season. Instead they dropped to 2-4, unable to hit a shot down the stretch or make a defensive stop.
The team had a six-point lead with just over four minutes following a Rome Smith 3-point make. After the Wildcats rattled off a nine point run, and the ThunderWolves made only two of four free throws, CSU-Pueblo ran a broken play that led to an errant Roman Van Allen floating jump shot from the baseline that hit the side of the back board.
“We were looking for the slit from Mario down the middle, and he was open. We should’ve thrown him the ball,” head coach Pat Eberhart said of the play that didn’t go as planned.
“We were up six with three minutes to go,” Smith said. “There is no way we should’ve lost. If we come down and get two stops in a row we win the game. Even if we don’t make another shot from there on, if we come down and get stops we win the game.”
The Pack put together a 16-2 run at the end of the first half. The only problem was it just brought the team within three points of the Wildcats. The ThunderWolves dug themselves into a 16-point hole midway through the first half.
Before the game Eberhart said he didn’t know what to expect going into the night. He said he didn’t know enough about his team to expect anything.
After a game where the team’s intensity often changed, he said he still doesn’t know much.
Eberhart put it bluntly when he said the team just isn’t good in any aspect of the game right now.
Smith once again led the Pack in scoring. Although he only had four first half points, he scored in a game-high 19 points.
The team-first player didn’t find any comfort in that stat though.
“As a leader on the team I try to lead by example, but that’s not working,” Smith said. “We just need to start winning, because this is a bad way to go out.”
The ThunderWolves will end their tournament play today against an always tough Seattle Pacific squad at 8 p.m.