Colorado State was mad Saturday afternoon.
Facing San Jose State for the first time since the Spartans knocked them out of the Mountain West Tournament last season and ruined their chances at an NCAA Tournament bid, the Rams needed a half to get things going offensively, but once they did, it was all but over.
Led by Alana Arias’ game-high 16 points, including 12 in the second half, CSU handled San Jose State 76-54 Saturday in front of a crowd of 1,612 at Moby Arena.
Senior forward Emilie Hesseldal recorded her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Jamie Patrick added 10 points and five assists.
The Rams shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, outscoring the Spartans 43-20 in the final two quarters after trailing by one at halftime.
The Rams jumped out to an early 11-5 lead, led by the senior forward Emile Hesseldal, who scored seven of the Rams’ first 11 points. CSU didn’t struggle to get good looks, but the Rams missed a handful of open layups and short jumpers, allowing the Spartans to claw their way back into the game.
After trailing for the majority of the first half, the Spartans retook the lead on, 31-30, on 3-pointer by Nyre Harris with 1:34 to go. Colorado State couldn’t find the bottom of the basket in the first half, shooting just just 11-for-36 (31 percent) in the first 20 minutes. The Rams seemed to have good looks at the basket, but just couldn’t get them to fall.
“They asked me on the radio, ‘What did you tell them at halftime,”‘ CSU head coach Ryun Williams said. “We really didn’t have to tell them anything. We made a slight adjustment defensively, but we had 36 pretty darn good shots in that first half, we just didn’t make them. It was just let’s play with a little more conviction, and I thought if we could get some stops, we could maybe get them on their heels a little bit. I thought we got the ball into the teeth of that zone early on, and Keyora (Wharry) really got us going again. She got us going again at Vegas in the start of the third quarter, but there was nothing different.”
CSU opened the second half on a 9-0 run, turning the one-point deficit into an eight-point lead in just under four minutes. The Spartans rallied to cut the deficit back to five, but another 9-0 run midway through the quarter gave the Rams their biggest lead of the game, 52-38.
From there, the Spartans could get no closer than 12 points, with CSU assuming its largest lead of the game, 76-54, on layup by freshman Callie Kaiser with 33 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans, who came into the game averaging just under 79 points per game, were held to by far their lowest scoring output this season, which was previously 66.
The win, CSU’s 10th in a row after losing in overtime to Penn on Nov. 24, moved the Rams to 13-1 and 3-0 in the Mountain West. The 13-1 start is the best at CSU since 1998-99, when the Rams, led by Becky Hammon, started the season 31-1.
It also extended the Rams’ regular season home win streak to 23 games.
Colorado State has now beaten five of the eight teams it lost to last year, and has a shot to get revenge on all but one of those teams, with the lone exception being Hawaii.
There may not have been a sweeter one than this, though.
“Personally, and I think for the team too, especially the returners, it was our biggest motivation,” Hesseldal said of wanting revenge on the Spartans. “There was just no way we were going to lose to them. I know that Ellie (Gustavsson) said before the game that we were kind of mad. We were kind of pissed, and we wanted revenge.”
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.