Colorado State’s women’s basketball team kicked it into gear just in time Wednesday night.
The Rams (12-4, 4-1 MW) came all the way back for a 59-58 win over Nevada (6-9, 2-2 MW) after being down 13 points with under four minutes to go. Gritt Ryder tossed in a game-winning scoop shot with only 17 seconds remaining, but it was Hanne Mestdagh’s clutch play down the stretch that ignited CSU’s 14-0 run to close the game.
Nevada led by 13, 58-45, with 3:46 to play and it looked like a sure Wolf Pack victory. The Rams had been getting out-hustled the entire second half, losing the rebounding margin by five in the second frame as well as missing close shots, allowing Nevada to build a double-digit lead after a back-and-forth first half.
“We left 12-plus points off the scoreboard because of easy, easy baskets that a Division I basketball player has to make,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams admitted.
But Mestdagh drilled a huge three followed by a Jamie Patrick layup to bring the Rams within single digits 58-50. After two more consecutive buckets from Ryder and Elin Gustavsson, Mestdagh sank another 3-ball to make it a one point game.
Following that play, Nevada attempted a 3-pointer and missed, and none other than Mestdagh came up with the big rebound and outlet to Ryder. Jamie Patrick then caught it on the wing and missed a wide-open 3-pointer for the lead, but Gustavsson saved the game for the Rams with an offensive rebound.
Williams then called timeout. Coming out of the huddle, the Rams went to Ryder, who drove the lane for what would be the game-winner.
“We drew something up, and said if that wasn’t going to work, it was just attack,” Ryder said. “I’m happy I made that shot.”
Ryder, who was dealing with flu-like symptoms and hamstring issues that kept her out against Air Force, scored six points all in the last five minutes, while also snagging three rebounds and dishing six assists.
It was a back and forth game all night until about halfway through the second frame when Nevada pulled away. Gustavsson got off to a hot start for the Rams, scoring their first nine points before assisting Patrick on a layup and hitting another bucket to push her point total to double digits just halfway through the first.
The forward used her superior quickness against six-foot-eight Nevada center Mimi Mengudi to get to the rim for points all night.
“I was surprised (Mengudi) was playing defense on me,” Gustavsson said. “She usually guards Emile (Hesseldal). She was denying me, she played close to me, so I’d just drive and it worked.”
Mengudi exited the first half promptly after picking up two quick fouls guarding the Swede, who finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. Gustavsson has reached double digits in every Mountain West Conference game this season so far.
“That was my first time playing against a girl that tall, but I think she was frustrated,” Gustavsson added.
CSU took a one point lead 25-24 into halftime after finishing a back-and-forth closing minutes of the first.
Mengudi certainly didn’t disappear after her quiet first half, though. The senior returned in the second to lead the Wolf Pack with 12 points, one of four Nevada players to reach double digits.
Williams eventually called off his 2-3 zone defense, matching up full court after Nevada’s flurry of jump shots and Mengudi post moves put gave the Wolf Pack its double-digit lead. Williams said changing the defense was perhaps the key to victory.
“We kept saying on the bench ‘Believe in this, we got this,’” Ryder said. “I think we were saying it just because we had to, but then when we got going and saw the opportunity, we executed at the right time.”
“Down 13, our kids totally gutted it out, it wasn’t pretty,” Williams admitted. “The continuity is still nowhere close to where it needs to be. Sometimes you have to get lucky, and I thought tonight we got lucky.”
With the comback, the Rams extend their winning streak to four after victories over Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force. The Rams come back home to Moby Arena to play San Jose State (8-8, 2-3 MW) Saturday at noon.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @samlounz.