COLUMBIA — In his coach’s mind, not even a loss could put a damper on how well Colorado State senior Colton Iverson played Friday.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Iverson, a 6-foot-10, 261-pound center, scored 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in the Rams’ 75-65 loss to UNLV in the Mountain West tournament semifinals.
“I don’t know when I’ve had an effort, let alone a performance, like Colton Iverson,” Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said after the game. “For his size, his effort I’d have to think long and hard when I’ve had somebody do that.”
Truth is, Iverson has been doing it or Colorado State all season. The senior transfer from Minnesota is averaging 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and has racked up 14 double-doubles for the 25-8 Rams, who enter their NCAA Tournament round of 64 matchup against ninth-seeded Missouri on Thursday as the No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region.
What’s more, he seems to be coming alive down the stretch, scoring 20 or more points in three of his last four games. Stopping him will be a priority for Missouri and senior forwards Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers.
Bowers has a history with Iverson.
“We played in a few AAU tournaments together, but that’s way back when,” Bowers said. “He was a load then and he’s a load now, and we’re going to prepare to go to war on the boards with them and get a win.”
Oh yes, the boards. Iverson is the anchor down low for a Colorado State team that rebounds nearly as well as Missouri; the Rams rank fourth nationally with 40.4 rebounds per game, while the Tigers rank second at 41.4 per game. Missouri finished 3-7 against. teams ranked among the nation’s top 100 in rebounding, though it should also be noted that the Tigers were only outrebounded twice in those games.
“I’ll tell you what — they go to the glass as well as anybody in the country,” MU coach Frank Haith said of Colorado State. “They’re tough, they’re physical … they’re an older team, very experienced.”
The Rams also feature a player who may be familiar to Kansas City prep basketball fans. Rams senior guard Dorian Green, a graduate of Lawrence High, was one of the Sunflower League’s best players as a senior, when he led the Lions on an improbable run to a Kansas 6A championship.
Green, who is 6 feet 2, averages 12.8 points and 3.8 assists per game. He has been dealing with a sprained ankle but played in the loss to UNLV and is confident he’ll be ready Thursday.
“We have a week to prepare and rehab a little bit and get some more treatments,” Green said Sunday. “It’s getting better, so I’m confident it’ll be fine by the game.”
Green finished two of seven from the field and scored five points in 18 minutes against UNLV, but Eustachy was optimistic about what he saw Friday.
“He has no choice but to be fine; he’s out of time,” Eustachy said. “I thought he showed a lot of guts wanting to play tonight. … I thought that was very, very encouraging what I saw from Dorian.”
If Green’s health is back to normal, it will be a positive development for a Colorado State team that features an experienced coach — Eustachy, a former Iowa State coach, has reached the tournament four times and became the first Division I men’s basketball coach to win at least 24 games in a season at five schools — and is excited about its chances to make a run in the tournament.
“He’ll definitely get us ready to play,” Iverson said. “Our style of basketball has us built for this type of tournament.”