The first half of the CSU women’s basketball season-opener had a less electrifying start than the two exhibition games it previously played and dominated. After taking down two RMAC teams in exhibition play, the Rams escaped an 87-82 overtime battle against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
The first half exposed some struggles for the Rams on the offensive side of the ball. Key starters Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson were unable to get in rhythm early and struggled to get the looks they had found in previous preseason games. The Rams team as a whole shot only 16-38 from the field and 2-12 from three-point range.
“We didn’t play awful. We shot awful a lot of the game, and they shot like crazy,” Head Coach Ryun Williams said.
In addition to the lack of scoring, the Rams defense experienced a difficult time shutting down the Mountain Lions’ offense. The Lions were shooting 71-percent from behind the arch and 50-percent from the field, in addition to 90-percent free throw percentage after going to the line 29 times.
“We just have to talk,” senior forward Sam Martin said.“They were doing a lot of screens, a lot of motion; they weren’t just standing still. They were moving and that’s pretty hard to guard, and you know I think that’ll just come with some preparation and learning. “
Fortunately for the Rams, things took a turn in the second half. Their best play came during the five minutes of overtime when CSU decided to really turn it on, resulting in six players ending the night in double figures. In overtime, Nystrom turned around her shooting troubles, scoring six of the team’s 12 final points and ending the night leading the team in scoring with 20 points.
“I really just got closer to the basket,” Nystrom said. “In the first half I was shooting threes and driving, but this game I think I was good in the post.”
After edging UCCS, the Rams look ahead to facing in-state rival No. 19 Colorado. Martin, as the captain of the team, has made a point of adequately preparing this lineup that is full of first-year players for just how important the CU game is for the Rams.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country, and it’s a rivalry and a huge game. We’re going to come out ready to go on Tuesday,” Martin said.
Regardless of season-opening kinks needing to be worked out, Williams views Tuesday’s game as an opportunity to learn and grow for his young team.
“Our kids will surely compete, we know that,” Williams said. “Our kids will be ready to compete against that kind of competition. That is a great team coming in here and we’ll see if we closed the gap a little bit from last year.”
Sports writer Hannah Cornish can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @hmcornish.