SALT LAKE CITY — In the two-and-a-half seasons that Tim Miles has been the head coach of Colorado State's basketball team, he's worked tirelessly to get the Rams headed in the right direction.
Whether the Rams ultimately get to where they want to go remains to be seen, but the way the 2009-2010 MWC conference season is unfolding, this much seems clear: Miles' club is showing signs of real life.
The latest signs of rejuvenation came on Wednesday night as Colorado State played solid basketball from start to finish to beat shorthanded Utah 65-50 inside the Huntsman Center.
Forward Andy Ogide finished with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the way for CSU, and Travis Busch and Dorian Green each added 13 points as the Rams won in Salt Lake City for the first time in five seasons.
Afterward, Miles was the first person to point out that the Rams were very fortunate to play the Utes on a night when their starting guardline was effectively off the court — Marshall Henderson was suspended for punching BYU's Jackson Emery last Saturday, and Luka Drca played through back spasms and was largely ineffective — but he'll gladly take a road win at the Huntsman Center over Utah coach Jim Boylen's team any day of the week.
"It's huge," Miles said of beating the Utes in their own gym. "I've got so much respect for coach Boylen. He does a terrific job, and so to come in and beat a Utah team even shorthanded — I don't care, it still counts the same — at the end of the night, that's a big win for our program."
With the victory, Colorado State improved to 4-4 at the halfway point of the MWC season, while Utah fell to 3-5.
From the start of Wednesday's game until the end of it, the Rams played composed basketball to keep the Utes at bay. Turnover problems and defensive lapses had been issues for Colorado State in recent conference games, but the Rams were stellar in both regards against Utah.
CSU turned the ball over just eight times, and at the other end of the court, forced the Utes into 16 turnovers and held them to just 41-percent shooting.
Utah pulled within five points with 6:56 remaining and had a couple of chances to make huge 3-point baskets that would've made the final five minutes of the game extremely interesting. Instead, neither 3 dropped and CSU closed the game on a 12-2 run.
"At that point, we just needed to buckle down and execute our late-game situation and just rebound the ball, protect the ball — don't turn it over — and get easy baskets and attack," said Green.
That's precisely what Colorado State did, and the end product was an impressive victory.
CSU went 0-16 in conference play during Miles' first season and finished 4-12 a year ago.
Already, though, they've matched last year's conference win total, and with games coming up against Wyoming and Air Force, it's quite possible that the Rams could be on their way to finishing with a highly-respectable season.
"It's progress for our program," Miles said of being 4-4 at the halfway point. "There's no question that we've been a doormat and we're showing that progress necessary (to improve.)
"We're not perfect," Miles added, "We've got plenty of warts, but at the same time, I think we're showing progress."