The preseason favorites to win the Mountain West put their skills on display Friday night in an exhibition game at Moby Arena. The Colorado State Rams outclassed Division II school South Carolina-Aiken, winning by a score of 77-43. CSU held the Pacers to single digits in the first half and led 40-8 at the break.
The Rams came out pressing full court defensively. SC-Aiken struggled to deal with the pressure, turning the ball over 15 times in the first half. Offensively, CSU head coach Ryun Williams encouraged his team to push the pace in transition after rebounds.
“That’s how we’ve been practicing all fall now,” Williams said. “We’ve got some depth, so we can push the pressure a little bit.”
However, Williams did say that his team could have been more effective in doing so.
“I think maybe we got a little bit extended tonight,” Williams said. “Offensively, we pushed the pace, but we pushed it a little too fast. We were playing in fourth gear tonight. We need to play in third gear.”
Ellen Nystrom, Keyora Wharry, Jamie Patrick, Emilie Hesseldal and Elin Gustavsson got the start for CSU. Alana Arias did not play due to sickness, but Williams said after the game that Arias would have started in place of Hesseldal at the forward spot had she been healthy.
“Alana’s been our most dominant low post presence in practice,” Williams said. “She’s a really good scorer and she brings that size. She won that spot.”
Forwards Veronika Mirkovic and Amanda Kantzy were the first players off the bench for the Rams, and Hannah Tvrdy was the first to check in when the team needed a guard. Nystrom, Hesseldal, Wharry and Gustavsson each had seven points in the first half, but played sparingly in the second.
Kantzy impressed in her debut, leading the Rams in scoring with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting while also pulling down three boards.
“(Kantzy) is a versatile player,” Williams said. “You saw her shoot the three, you saw her put it on the floor a little bit. She’s got a really good feel for the game. She’s a passionate player and she loves the stage. … I think she earned some more minutes.”
Gustavsson led the team in rebounding with eight, and Wharry, a guard, grabbed seven. Program newcomer Sofie Tryggedsson led the team with four assists.
Williams tested out his bench and experimented with lineups as much as possible. Every player other than Arias saw action, and not a single player clocked 20 minutes of action.
“We’re going to shorten that rotation as soon as the games start but we’ve got kids still competing for minutes,” Williams said. “Some kids made some positive impressions.”
The head coach did highlight some areas that his team will need to improve in though during the regular season.
“A couple of their screens in the second half we didn’t communicate really well on,” Williams said. “Our transition offense got exposed. Again, playing too fast. And we preach all month long, ‘don’t get shot on, don’t get shot on, hand on shot’ right? Don’t let somebody rise up and shoot it. And they had a number of kids in that second half kind of rise up and get three balls off. That’s not supposed to happen in our system. We were late getting to the ball.”
CSU officially begins its season Friday, Nov. 13 at home against Western State. The opener is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip at Moby Arena.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.