A momentous Mountain West Conference game lies ahead for Colorado State’s women’s hoops team (16-5, 8-2 MW) as it hits the road this weekend for a Saturday showdown with UNLV (8-12, 5-4 MW).
The matchup follows a pivotal Wednesday night for MW standings as CSU completed a season sweep of Wyoming and league leader Fresno State (9-1 MW) lost at San Jose State, bringing the Rams back within one game of being tied for a first place standing after falling at Fresno last weekend.
Despite the closing of the gap between second-place CSU and the top of the conference, the Rams are sticking with their philosophy of not looking past their next opponent. Sophomore forward Ellen Nystrom said her team refuses to pay attention to Fresno State’s results and hope for another Bulldogs’ loss.
“We have to just focus on ourselves and our game,” Nystrom said.
CSU head coach Ryun Williams agreed, saying that his team is very much in charge of its own destiny. Since the beginning of the season, the Rams’ goal has clearly been repeating as Mountain West champions.
“Even after that Fresno loss, everything that they want was and is still right in front of them,” Williams said. “You can’t control what other people do. All you can control is your group and your game.”
And that’s what the Rams plan to do Saturday against the Rebels in Las Vegas. Limiting UNLV’s free throw attempts will be key, as the Rebels average 18.2 points per game from the line. While they have an 11-game win streak going at home, the Rams are 4-3 on opponents’ home courts this season where they have struggled to keep players away from the charity stripe.
In their conference opening loss at Boise State, the Rams sent the Broncos to the line for 16 points on 23 attempts. It was the same story at Fresno State last week as the Bulldogs hit 17 at the line on 22 attempts.
“That’s been one of our Achilles’ heels on the road,” Williams admitted. “We have to play good defense without the unnecessary fouling. That’s going to be a critical part of that basketball game.”
The Rams will have to stay close to Mountain West leading scorer Danielle Miller, though, who averages 19 points per contest.
“We need to be really locked into her tendencies and the plan,” Williams said of Miller. “Our kids have done a pretty good job of that pretty much every single night.”
Although the Rebels average over 18 turnovers per game, the Rams will not alter their defense at all to exploit more mistakes from UNLV. Instead, Williams feels UNLV plays into the hands of his team’s normal strategies.
“We just need to play how we play defensively… Just be locked in and be really disciplined,” Williams said.
Nystrom agreed with her coach.
“We’re just going to play like we always play,” the Swede said. “As long as we play our game, we’re going to win.”
Tipoff in Las Vegas is at 5 p.m. Mountain Time. The game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @samlounz.