No. 13 Colorado State was able to beat Denver University 90-80, running the Rams’ record to a perfect 9-0.

However, after three big wins over Creighton, Colorado, and Washington, CSU had a bit of a let down against DU. The Pioneers gave the Rams all they could handle in a gritty, tough battle at Moby Arena.

And it seems clear that multiple injuries to key players has affected Colorado State as of late.

Colorado State defeated DU, but missed Jalen Lake and Josiah Strong

The Rams seemed to overlook a decent Denver team on Wednesday night.

DU jumped out to the early lead, hung tough with the Rams all first half, and even took the 39-35 lead into the break. Colorado State continued to struggle to wrestle power from the Pioneers, but eight straight points by Patrick Cartier gave CSU a four-point lead early in the second half.

Denver stormed back and took their own four-point lead, but the Rams as bench players Taviontae Jackson, Rashaan Mbemba and Kyan Evans helped to give the home team an eight-point advantage with 10:30 to play.

Down the stretch, stars Cartier, Isaiah Stevens and Nique Clifford help lift CSU to the 90-80 victory.

The Rams were even more efficient offensively than usual, making a superb 60.4% from the floor, and Cartier led all CSU players with 19 points. Stevens finished with 18 points and 9 assists.

On one hand, Colorado State took care of business and won.

On the other, the lack of starter Josiah Strong and sixth man Jalen Lake left the Rams without scoring threats who could have helped widen the gap earlier.

No offense to DU, but their Simple Rating System score (-1.22) was the third-worst of any opponent CSU has played this year. The Rams should have won by closer to 20 points.

And, while they’re not dominant, the Saint Mary’s Gaels are much better than DU.

Saint Mary’s presents a stronger opponent this Saturday

Currently, Colorado State’s SRS is 21.73, which is 10th in the country. Saint Mary’s SRS comes in at 9.53, which is fifth-best among opponents CSU has played this year.

Simply, the Gaels aren’t going to be as easy a team as DU was, and that could mean the Rams losing their first game this Saturday if they’re not careful.

Together, Strong—who’s out six weeks with a broken wrist he sustained in the win over Washington—and Lake, with a broken finger, combine for 16.2 points and 5 rebounds per game. That’s a lot of production the Rams have to backfill.

Luckily for Niko Medved’s team, he’s built them with more depth than usual Rams teams have.

Joe Palmer has become a fan favorite and a crucial part of the team, namely for his 3-point shooting. The aforementioned Mbemba has been a key piece to the front court, not only with Cartier dealing with a sore back, but with the starting big man back, too. And then there’s Jackson and Javonte Johnson, who have seen little playing time this year until the DU game.

Simply, with Colorado State dealing with so many injuries, the bench guys—Jackson, Johnson, Mbemba, Evans, and Palmer—all need to step up in their own right.

Saint Mary’s is a team the Rams should beat, but what stands out is the Gaels’ defense. They allow only 60.6 points per game, which is 10th-lowest in the nation. CSU’s 85.8 points per game are 19th; which will win out on Saturday?

Also of note, Saint Mary’s averages 41.4 rebounds per game, which is nearly 10 more (32.0) than CSU.

The Rams will need to be extra efficient offensively and fight for loose balls and rebounds throughout.

On Saturday, No. 13 Colorado State (9-0) hosts Saint Mary’s (4-5) at Moby Arena with tip-off scheduled for 4 p.m. MT. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.