Colorado State’s women’s basketball team is pretty tough to beat at home.
CSU (13-4, 5-1 MW) improved its record to 9-1 in Moby Arena this season Saturday with a crushing 77-59 defeat of San Jose State (8-9, 2-4 MW). The Rams’ sole home loss came against Hawaii back in November in the first game of the season.
Containing the Spartans’ high paced run-and-gun offensive strategy with poise on both ends of the floor was the key to victory for CSU. Coming into Fort Collins, San Jose State averaged 82.6 points per game, which ranked them sixth in the nation.
“It’s hard (to play against a fast team) because it makes you want to play fast,” sophomore forward Ellen Nystrom said. “We wanted to slow it down without it getting stagnant.”
With its offense normally fueled by 3-point shooting and fast breaks off turnovers, SJSU struggled to manufacture baskets against a controlled CSU attack. The Rams only turned it over 13 times against SJSU’s full court trap defense, which kept the Spartans from achieving their normally efficient rapid play as they scored only four fast break points.
While maintaining control of the tempo was crucial for CSU, the Rams showed up ready to run with the Spartans in the first half. Guards AJ Newton and Gritt Ryder looked to slice through the press and push it, which allowed for some close and easy looks against a broken press.
“Having Gritt and AJ on the floor together, you’ve got two point guards out there that see the floor really well, they pass well and they handle the ball,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said. “That’s invaluable.”
Newton finished with 14 points, her highest total since returning from injury, along with five rebounds, while Ryder had a balanced line of six points, six rebounds and five assists.
“AJ had some bounce back today,” Williams said. “It was nice to see that AJ swag back. She brings a lot of spark to our team when she’s like that.”
Out of the gate, it looked like both teams agreed to make the game a 3-point shooting contest as they combined for 34 attempts from deep in the first. Jamie Patrick stroked two 3-balls early for CSU to help build a 9-5 lead, but after that, both teams struggled from behind the arc.
Hanne Mestdagh was uncharacteristically poor from deep, missing five 3-pointers in the first half for the Rams. But San Jose State insisted on shooting 3’s as well, despite the Spartans clearly being cold in Moby. They shot just 3-19 from downtown in the first half alone, and finished the game 7-31.
After Ryun Williams called timeout, the Rams showed some balance, building up a 19-point lead at the break behind some inside looks to Alana Arias against SJSU’s 2-3 zone in the halfcourt.
Arias netted 14 points as well while also snatching seven rebounds.
Coming out of the locker room, San Jose State went on a mini 5-2 run, cutting the deficit to 16, but that was as close as the Spartans came the rest of the way.
Newton found Keyora Wharry for an and-one that pumped Moby Arena and the Rams up. Wharry stood up off the hardwood with a double-fist pump and an invigorating shout, showing some emotion that Williams said he was ecstatic to see.
“The highlight of the day for me was the emotion that was shown,” Williams said. “We’ve been lacking that. I commend our kids for the energy they played with today.”
Scoring 77 points could have allowed the Rams’ to celebrate their recent offensive woes as over Saturday, but Newton’s excitement came from holding such a high scoring team to 59 and her team’s continued high level of effort defensively.
“I think since we weren’t really scoring early on…(Coach Williams) made it really important early in the season that you need to be really good on the ball at defense and helping,” Newton said. “We can still win if it’s 10-5. As long as they don’t score and we score some, we can win the game.”
“San Jose State had us scared to death coming into this game,” Williams admitted. “They can really get out and go. This is a really good win against a team that I think is tough for us to guard and play against.”
CSU has a week-long break, with its next game coming Saturday at San Diego State (5-10, 2-2 MW) at 3 p.m. MT.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @samlounz.