PUEBLO, Colo. - For teams on the rise, there are
usually moments that define a team's season. For the Pack's Rome
Smith, he helped the Pack to have that moment four times in a
Smith scored nine straight points during the ThunderWolves' staggering 16-0 run to close the game, nailing three fadeaway jumpers and a pretty three to propel the Pack to a 60-47 win over Western State Thursday.
The Pack rallied from a 44-44 tie with five minutes remaining to a 60-44 advantage that was only stopped when Western nailed a meaningless three as time expired. Through the span, the Pack was 6-for-6 from the field, taking down three boards and forcing two steals. In a game that was marked by its ugliness as neither team's offense ever truly established itself, every facet of the Pack's game came together in some sort of a magical kismet.
"Rome started to get hot and he showed he was ready to bust out," Pack head coach Patrick Eberhart said. "We started to run stuff to him, and he just kept on going."
The ThunderWolves' tone was also set by a tenacious game on the boards, paced by Chris Childress, who equalled a career-high with 13 boards. Childress seamlessly wove in and out of guarding on the low post and on the perimeter, all coming to fruition in the Pack's signature run when he helped to diffuse any scoring chances Western State had near the end.
"We did a good job taking care of the boards and stopping their second chances," Eberhart said. "We have been working a lot guarding their perimeter players with our post guys, down the stretch, Chris was guarding their guards and slowing them down."
The Pack's win is made all the more impressive when you consider how the game started. Western State began the game with an 8-0 run while the Pack missed their first eight field goal attempts. The ThunderWolves clawed back, tying the game early in the second half at 30. From there, the ThunderWolves were just a pressure cooker that blew the lid off near the end.
"[Western State's] game plan was tremendous," Eberhart said. "They were well-prepared, and they shot the ball real well early on. We knew if they shot the ball well, it was going to be a tough game. But in the second half, we really toughened up and guarded them really well."
The Pack's impressive win was their fourth straight, which ties for the longest win streak since Eberhart has been head coach since taking over the team prior to the 2005-06 season. More importantly, the ThunderWolves have improved to 8-10 overall and 5-6 in conference play, leaving them in a logjam in the RMAC Western Division, where two games separate five teams. The Pack is currently in fifth place.
The Pack will look toward a pivotal game next Friday when first place Fort Lewis comes to town for a rare day game. Tip off is at 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1.