Colorado State and Wyoming women’s basketball teams certainly put the “war” in Border War Wednesday night in Laramie as CSU hung on for a close 58-55 victory over the Cowgirls. The win was the Rams’ first in Laramie in 13 years and brings the all time series to an even 45-45.
CSU (9-4, 2-1 MW) dealt the first blow of the battle as it amassed a 19-point lead in the first half behind incredibly efficient offense. Gritt Ryder and Hanne Mestdagh combined to make four 3-pointers in a row, and then Mestdagh hit another from downtown. After two Ellen Nystrom free throws and an Elin Gustavsson bucket, the Rams were up 31-12 with just over five minutes left in the half. Gustavsson led the Rams on the night with 11 points on 5-8 shooting along with six rebounds.
“They were focused, they were ready to go,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said of his team’s first half performance. “I thought we did a nice job of playing some mismatches … and we got loose for a couple threes.”
“We talked a lot about having a lot of energy,” CSU senior Gritt Ryder said. “We were excited and when the shots kept going in it felt awesome.”
But Wyoming (6-7, 1-2 MW) began slicing away at the deficit by getting to the free throw line. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Wyoming’s Kaitlyn Mileto in addition to nine first half points from the charity stripe helped cut CSU’s lead to just seven at one point. Keyora Wharry restored a double-digit Ram lead before the break, though, with a step-back jumper as time expired in the first half to put CSU up 39-29.
The Rams had to overcome unfavorable whistles the rest of the night as Wyoming shot 27 free throws, making 21, while CSU attempted only nine.
The second half opened with Wyoming cutting the gap to six behind four more free throws. From there, the Cowgirls kept it close and waited for their opportunity to make a run for the lead, which came when Marquelle Dent hit a three to bring Wyoming within three with under five minutes to play, 51-48.
A Kayla Woodward layup then cut the lead to just one, but that would be as close as the Cowgirls would get. Jamie Patrick and Victoria Wells hit back to back jumpers, followed by two Ellen Nystrom free throws, and all of a sudden the Rams were back up by seven, 57-50, with under a minute to play.
UW was awarded five more free throws to come within two before the game was over, but Patrick put the Rams up three with a free throw of her own and CSU prevented Wyoming’s last second 3-point attempt from finding the net.
“I feel like we just kept our poise,” Ryder said of the frustrating difference in free throw attempts. “They hit some big shots, but we just kept coming back and we hit some big shots. We just kept finding our way to win.”
Ryder finished with a balanced game of eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Williams said his team was determined to play a prettier game than Saturday’s blood bath with New Mexico.
“They wanted to play a little better than they did against New Mexico, and now we have to go get Air Force,” Williams said.
The Rams head to Colorado Springs Saturday to take on the in-state rival Falcons at 3 p.m.
In addition to the win, the Rams were happy to see senior guard AJ Newton check in for a short stretch in each half, seeing action for the first time since Nov. 18 against Illinois State as she’s been battling a knee injury.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @samlounz.