“When you rebound you want to be consistent,” the Wolf Pack head coach said on Tuesday. “They go to the boards with three guys on every shot. They go to the boards every single time. We don’t go to the boards every single time.”
The Wolf Pack, 11-10 overall and 2-5 in the Mountain West, will face the Mountain West’s top rebounding team on Wednesday night (7 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center. Colorado State (18-4, 5-2) features four of the top 12 rebounders in the conference and leads the Mountain West with a plus 13.7 rebounding margin.
“They are the best rebounding team we’ve faced so far,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack has lost six of its last eight games.
The Rams’ Pierce Hornung, a 6-foot-5 guard, leads the Mountain West with 9.8 rebounds a game and Colton Iverson, a 6-10 center, is third at 9.4. Hornung and Iverson are the best rebounding tandem in the nation with 19.2 rebounds combined a game.
But they are not alone. Daniel Bejarano (6-4) is ninth in the conference with 6.3 rebounds a game and Greg Smith (6-6) is 12th at 5.5.
“They are relentless on the boards,” Carter said. “Every time a shot goes up against them, they send their three-four-five (two forwards and their center) to the boards. But they also go a great job of getting their guards back on defense so you can’t get easy lay-ups.”
The Rams are the best in the Mountain West, allowing opponents to shoot just .379.
“They are a very physical team,” Carter said. “The big kid (Iverson) is going to be a big problem for us. He can rebound and he can score inside.”
Iverson leads the Rams at 14.0 points a game. Wolf Pack post players Devonte Elliott and Kevin Panzer, Carter said, will have their hands full.
“We’re still trying to figure out a way to defend him,” Carter said with a smile. “What makes him so difficult is that he is their first or second option on offense most of the time. They kind of go through him a lot. We’re going to have to mix it up on defense against him.
“The key is to make him shoot over you. You don’t want him to get dunks or spin off you for lay-ups. We have to get him off his spot and make him shoot the ball over us.”
The Rams have a very balanced offense. Hornung averages 10.1 points, Wes Eikmeier, a 6-3 senior, averages 11.9 and Dorian Green, a 6-2 senior, is averaging 12.7. Bejarano is at 6.7 points a game.
“They are so balanced,” Carter said. “It’s almost like you have to pick your poison. But we just need to be real sound defensively.”
Hornung, Carter said, is the heart and soul of the rams.
“He’s their inspirational guy,” Carter said. “They don’t run a lot of plays for him on offense. But he works hard and gets a lot of his points off offensive rebounds.”
The Wolf Pack has struggled in league play but Carter has seen some positive things in competitive losses to San Diego State and UNLV recently.
“We might not be winning these games but we are getting better,” he said. “We’re giving ourselves a chance. We just need to learn how to close out games.”
Opponents, Carter said, are focusing on not allowing Pack point guard Deonte Burton to beat them down the stretch of games.
“We need other guys to step up,” Carter said. “Last year (in the Western Athletic Conference), we had two seniors (Dario Hunt, Olek Czyz) who could beat teams so they couldn’t really focus on Deonte. But now other teams are focusing on him.”
The Rams are coached by former Idaho, Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Eustachy. Eustachy, whose parents met in the 1950s while they were students at the University of Nevada, is 10-7 in his career against the Wolf Pack. He was 3-3 as Idaho’s head coach from 1990-93 and 7-4 at Utah state from 1994-1998. His Utah State Aggies also beat Pacific in the Big West Conference tournament championship game at Lawlor Events Center in March 1998 to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolf Pack, which will also host Air Force on Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center, is 9-3 at home this season. Last year they were 16-2 at home.
“We cannot afford to lose anymore games at home,” Carter said.