Video by Keith Albertson and Courtney Kreidler, CTV Sports
The top dog in Mountain West women’s basketball officially became Colorado State Wednesday night as the Rams (19-6, 11-3 MW) beat the Fresno State Bulldogs (17-7, 9-4 MW) 70-56 in Moby Arena to go up a full game and a half on last year’s Mountain West Tournament champion.
CSU finally got its revenge on the Bulldogs for their upset of the Rams in the final of last year’s MW Tournament that robbed CSU of an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“It feels great,” sophomore forward Ellen Nystrom said. “For me, (that loss) is more like a good thing now, because now we just want to punch them.”
Forward Elin Gustavsson said that this win was about than just revenge, though, but also to show the Mountain West the true best team in the league.
“Yeah, we’re going to win, but at the same time we wanted to show we’re the better team, and prove that we’re so much better,” Gustavsson said.
Though it felt like a close game the whole way, CSU maintained a lead from the opening tip. The Rams came out of the gate ready to run the floor as Gritt Ryder and Nystrom found a running Gustavsson for back-to-back fastbreak layups to get CSU going early. A double-digit lead was built by the eight-minute mark of the first, and the Rams were able to keep the Bulldogs at that distance most of the rest of the night.
Three Hanne Mestdagh 3-pointers were key to establishing CSU’s first-half lead. The junior swished her first trey, then somehow banked one in from nearly the corner. That wasn’t the end of fortunate bank shots for the forward out of Belgium, though, as she threw one up and in off the glass from deep just before the halftime buzzer to give CSU a 16 point lead at the break, 39-23.
After halftime, Nystrom started the second with an and-one that put the Rams up 19, but that would be the last time CSU would score for nearly eight minutes.
Fresno State made it close for a short stretch during the Rams drought, cutting their lead to five at one point, 42-37, spreading worry around Moby Arena. But the Rams kicked it into gear just in time as Gustavsson got a layup to go with a difficult move around a defender in the lane that was followed by two Victoria Wells free throws.
“Fresno, they’re going to crawl back, that’s a tough team right there, those kids are tough,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said in credit of the Bulldogs.
On the next CSU possession, another Mestdagh three restored a double-digit Rams’ lead 49-39 with 9:23 left. FSU’s Alex Sheedy answered with a layup to cut it back to eight, but that was followed with a Nystrom turn-around jumper in the face of Sheedy to keep it at 10. Nystrom finished with a career-high 21 points along with eight rebounds. Gustavsson added another 18 points for the Rams, while Sheedy led the Bulldogs with 18 herself.
“They had a lot of pressure on the guards … so me and Elin had a lot of to just do our stuff, to drive and nobody helped,” Nystrom said. “It felt good.”
From there, the Rams never looked back, holding a comfortable lead the rest of the way, but it still got a little chippy at one point as an altercation between Keyora Wharry and FSU’s Alex Furr warranted a double-technical foul. After a CSU bucket, Wharry backpedaled into Furr without seeing her and knocked her over. Furr stood up and got in the face of Wharry, who proceeded to shove Furr in the chest before officials separated them. The play only resulted in a set of personal fouls, though.
Photos by Abbie Parr
Gustavsson said the Rams looked up the court to find the open teammate Wednesday night more than they did in their loss at Fresno State in the Save-Mart Center last month.
“They were super tired, but I felt like we found each other. We played smarter,” Gustavsson said.
Williams beamed with pride during his description of what he found to be a well-rounded win by his team.
“Our kids made a lot of tough plays out there, not just shots, but we handled the ball well, rebounded well, guarded well, kept our composure,” Williams said. “I’m really proud of this victory.”
CSU heads to Air Force Saturday to take on the Falcons at 2 p.m.
Video by Sam Lounsberry
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.