ThunderWolves host Orediggers in battle for first place in the RMAC

ThunderWolves host Orediggers in battle for first place in the RMAC

PUEBLO, Colo. (January 20, 2017) - There is a three-way tie for first in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and Saturday two of those three teams will meet in Massari Arena, as the Colorado State University-Pueblo men's basketball team welcomes Colorado School of Mines at 7:30 p.m.

The game serves as Military Appreciation Night. All active and retired military (with ID) and up to four additional immediate family members are free.

The ThunderWolves are 10-2 in RMAC play entered the weeked tied with Fort Lewis College and Colorado Mines.

Senior Nelson Kahler was named RMAC Defensive Player of the Week Monday for the second consecutive week Tuesday. He earned four weekly honors from the league last year.

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Last Game
CSU-Pueblo produced a big road win at Colorado Christian University Tuesday, 98-94. With the victory, the ThunderWolves improved to 10-2 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play to sit in a three-way tie for first in the league standings.

Just three days after tying the program record for blocks, senior center Nelson Kahler established a new school record with 10 against CCU. He entered the game tied for fourth nationally with 50 blocks. The reigning RMAC Defensive Player of the Week added 12 points for his second double-double of the season.

Senior Rico Spikes took over in the second half and finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, all team highs for the Pack. He has three double-doubles this season. He totaled 23 points in the second half.

Junior Josh Smith knocked down six of the team's 12 3-pointers and finished with 20 points. Off the bench, redshirt-freshman Donovan Oldham totaled 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He hit three, 3-pointers

The ThunderWolves shot 57.1 percent from the field for their third straight game with 54 percent or better. The Pack almost shot better from the floor than they did from the line with a 59.1 percentage (22-for-38). CSU-Pueblo was 12-for-26 (46.2%) from long range.

The Orediggers
The Orediggers have won eight straight and are 15-3 overall with a 6-2 road record. They rank 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 64.4 points per game. Colorado Mines' scoring margin is 14.5 (21st nationally), as they post 78.9 points per contest. CSM is 27th in NCAA Division II with 304 total assists and rank fourth nationally with a 1.58 assist to turnover ratio. Gokul Natesan leads the team with 19.3 points per game and adds 3.1 assists per contest. Caleb Waitsman totals 10.3 points and team-best 6.1 rebounds per game.

Last Season versus the Orediggers
The Pack and Orediggers split the season series last year as both squads posted road wins. CSU-Pueblo won 90-80 in Golden, but Colorado Mines got redemption and won 98-78 in Pueblo.

The loss to CSM is the last time the Pack suffered a setback at home, a streak running eight games.
 
Sweet Shooting
The Pack are shooting 51.3 percent from the field this season, which is second in the RMAC and sits 10th nationally. CSU-Pueblo shot above 50 percent in each of the first eight games and 12 of the 17 contests. The Pack have five players shooting above 50 percent, guided by Nelson Kahler's 58.7 percent, which ranks fourth in the RMAC. Sitting seventh in the conference and 51th in NCAA Division II is Mark Williams with a 57.4 percentage.

Block Party
Nelson Kahler finished first in the RMAC and 22nd nationally with 64 blocks last season. His 2.21 blocks per game was 21st. He owns 60 blocks this season to again lead the league and rank fourth nationally. The 3.5 swats per game is also fourth in NCAA Division II.

Kahler has swatted 124 shot attempts in his season and a half with the Pack to rank third on the all-time list.

After recording nine blocks against UCCS Jan. 14 to tie the school record, the senior established a new program record with 10 at Colorado Christian.

As a team, the ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and rank second nationally in total blocks with 105. The 6.2 blocked shots per game is second in NCAA Division II.

Home Cookin'
The ThunderWolves are 7-0 at home this season and under sixth-year Pack Head Coach Ralph Turner, CSU-Pueblo owns a 49-25 (.662) record. This season the ThunderWolves are outscoring opponents 88.0-70.4 at Massari Arena.

Guards Leading the Way
The Pack's leading scorer is Mark Williams with 14.1 points per game (18th in RMAC). He has come off the bench in 12 of the 17 games. He is shooting 57.4 percent from the field (seventh in RMAC) and adds 6.0 rebounds per game (14th in RMAC).

The leading rebounder is guard Rico Spikes, who has 7.2 rebounds per contest to sit fifth in the RMAC. His 3.4 assists per game is 10th in the league, while the senior's 55.2 percent from the field ranks 13th. His 13.0 points per game is 23rd.

Will Newman's 4.5 assists per game (76 total) ranks fourth in the conference. His 2.0 assist/turnover ratio, 1.6 steals per game and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe are all fifth in the league.

Long Range
The ThunderWolves finished 10th nationally last season with 11.0 3-pointers per game and hit on a 37.7 percentage (4th in the RMAC). This season, the Pack are shooting at a 41.5 percent clip from long range to sit 18th nationally. CSU-Pueblo has knocked down 9.2 3-pointers per contest, which is fourth in the RMAC.

Josh Smith has 49 buckets from beyond the arc to sit fifth in the RMAC, while Liggett's 33 daggers from downtown is T-13th. Liggett has shot 35-of-73 (47.3%) from long range this season to rank ninth in the RMAC.

Gavin Liggett hit nine against Texas A&M Commerce Nov. 25 to fall one shy of the program record. The mark is the most in the RMAC this season and is tied for the third most in NCAA Division II in 2016-17.

Helping Hand
The Pack are third in the conference with 16.0 assists per game, which sits 54th in Division II.

Getting Buckets
The ThunderWolves are second in the league and 30th in the country with 86.7 points per game. The team's +8.9 scoring margin is third in the conference and 54th nationally.

Coaching Milestone
Head Coach Ralph Turner earned win number 90 with an 89-70 home win against MSU Denver Jan. 13. As the CSU-Pueblo bench boss, he owns an 91-66 (.580) record in six seasons. He owns the third most wins in ThunderWolves men's basketball history.

The Dec. 30 win against Black Hills State was the 450th in his storied men's basketball collegiate head coaching career that spans 21 seasons.

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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics