Wednesday marks the beginning of Colorado State’s women’s basketball team’s first out-of-state road trip of the season as the Rams travel to Iowa to face the Drake Bulldogs and Salt Lake City Saturday to play the Brigham Young Cougars.
CSU (5-2) suffered its second loss of the season to in-state rival Colorado Saturday in a back-and-forth double overtime battle. Senior point guard Gritt Ryder said she expects the Rams to come out with a vengeance Wednesday night in Des Moines.
“It’s always hard to lose a game like that,” Ryder stated. “All of us on Sunday were just saying ‘That sucked.’ So we’ll be ready to go.”
Head coach Ryun Williams agreed his team might show some extra fire after the CU game.
“That loss will burn in their belly a little bit,” Williams said. “That was a tough one to swallow. But that’s one thing I like about this group, they seem to respond with a nice effort.”
The extra fuel coming from the loss to the rival Buffaloes will be needed for the Rams this week against the Bulldogs and the Cougars. Drake (3-3) plays host to CSU defending a fresh three-game win streak.
After beating Big 10 opponent Wisconsin, the Bulldogs went 2-0 in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic in Texas against Texas-San Antonio and Fordham last week. The Rams must contain Bulldogs’ forward Lizzy Wendell, who received MVP honors of the Thanksgiving Classic and currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring with 22.3 points per game.
CSU point guard Gritt Ryder will have to exercise caution with the ball around Drake sophomore Caitlin Ingle, whose defensive efforts earn her an average of three steals per game.
On Saturday, CSU heads to Salt Lake City to take on BYU, (3-3) which just finished 2-1 in the Tom Weston Invitational in Hawaii last week, its sole loss coming to No. 19 Oregon State. In addition, prior to last week the Cougars beat Nevada, CSU’s fellow member of the Mountain West Conference.
Among the keys to victory for the Rams is not fouling to keep the Cougars off of the free throw line. BYU’s two leading scorers, 6-2 senior forward Morgan Bailey (18.7) and junior guard Lexi Eaton (15.7) are a solid 14-14 and 20-25 from the charity stripe, respectively.
Fouling for the Rams could be especially problematic if Ryder picks up any “unnecessary” whistles as Williams continues to be without a key player in senior point guard AJ Newton, who is likely out for the season with a knee injury.
CSU has relyed on Ryder for heavy minutes and high numbers its past three games since she returned from an ankle injury suffered against Hawaii in the season opener. Ryder tied her career-high of 25 points against TCU in Boulder last week, continuing her hot shooting streak from last Sunday’s game with Illinois State in which she dropped six three pointers.
“I’m kind of joking that I’m playing for (AJ Newton) and I both right now, making threes I don’t normally,” Ryder teased.
Williams hopes he can ride on a boost in confidence of sophomore forward Elin Gustavsson after she dropped a career high 28 points against Colorado, including a streak of 22 straight for CSU.
“That was a big time performance against Colorado,” Williams said of Gustavsson’s effort. “It should give her confidence. We need Elin to play well. She knows that, we know that, she’s a big talent.”
“It felt good,” Gustavsson said of her game against the Buffaloes. “I should always be aggressive, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against or what kind of team we have.”
If CSU can depend on Gustavsson for big points again this week on the road, the Rams will have developed a serious offensive triple-threat with the trio of Ryder, Gustavsson and sophomore Ellen Nystrom, who has consistently created offense off the dribble in the early season.
CSU tips off with Drake at 6 p.m. Wednesday and BYU at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Collegian sports reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.