The winning streak continues, and along with it hopes for a second consecutive Mountain West title for Colorado State’s women’s hoops team as the Rams took down San Diego State on the road 49-36 Saturday.
Colorado State (14-4, 6-1 MW) got out to a slow start against SDSU (6-12, 3-4 MW), but was unable to get away from the Aztecs early in a low-scoring first half. Neither team lit the scoreboard for over five minutes as both teams struggled from the 3-point line to begin, with the Rams missing their first six attempts from deep before AJ Newton drilled one.
Despite the ball not going into the net, head coach Ryun Williams was still pleased with the looks his team generated offensively.
“We ran really good stuff,” Williams said. “I thought the start of the game, we could have had 35 or 40 at halftime. The looks that we got with the shooters that we have, we’ll take those looks every single game.”
Sure enough, shooting picked up for the Rams. Several minutes passed and Newton stroked another from deep, which was followed by a Gritt Ryder three that helped build an 11 point CSU lead 17-6 in the first.
But the Aztecs held on to make a run of their own, tying it at 17 before Alana Arias restored the Rams’ lead with five consecutive points that included a three-point-play with under 30 seconds remaining in the half.
“Gritt was giving me good passes and I was just fortunate to finish the shots,” Arias said, crediting her teammate.
CSU took a 22-18 lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the break, the Rams buried the Aztecs in the opening minutes of the second frame with an overwhelming 13-1 that left CSU up 35-19. Elin Gustavsson came out on fire, scoring seven straight on a 3-pointer, a tough fadeaway jumper and a fast break layup set up by a long baseball pass from Gritt Ryder.
“It felt really good,” Gustavsson said of finishing Ryder’s pass. “It’s not that often we have those type of plays.”
Gustavsson finished with a game-high 13 points.
Ryder then stroked a three which was followed by Newton’s third three of the day to cap off the run San Diego State would never recover from.
Colorado State’s 2-3 zone defense flummoxed the Aztecs all day by forcing them to make outside shots. SDSU is shooting a miserable 22.7 percent from the three on the season, and the trend continued Saturday as the Aztecs went just 1-12 from downtown. In addition, SDSU managed a whopping 19 turnovers and only eight assists.
“(The zone) was working,” Ryun Williams said. “We talked about it almost every single timeout, do we switch it up, but we just kept holding them down. Our kids were exceptional all day defensively and on the glass.”
“We know that San Diego State is really strong in the paint, and if they get away they will struggle and that’s what they did,” Gustavsson said.
Ellen Nystrom made CSU history by reaching a double-double the hard way, without scoring 10 points. The sophomore scored just two, but snagged 13 boards while dishing 10 assists, recording the first double-double with rebounds and assists in school history.
“They overhelped a lot, so I just got the easy kicks when I drove,” Nystrom explained.
The Swede has now led the Rams in rebounds in each of their last four outings, notching double digits previously against Air Force with 10.
“It’s more the mentality, just realizing I can get a lot of rebounds, so I go get them,” Nystrom said of her leadership on the glass.
A big week now lies ahead for the Rams upon returning from their win at Viejas Arena. The Boise State Broncos come to Moby Arena Wednesday night to tip off at 7 p.m. CSU’s sole conference loss came at the hands of the Broncos New Year’s Eve in Boise. Following that rematch, the Rams head to Fresno State Saturday to take on the current conference leaders.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.