GREELEY, COLO. – Payback.
That’s been the theme of the CSU women’s hoops team’s season so far.
The Rams (7-1) handled Northern Colorado (5-3) by a score of 62-46 at Bank of Colorado Arena on Tuesday night to avenge their first-round WNIT upset loss to the Bears that ended their season last year at Moby Arena. CSU also lost at home to UNC in the 2013-14 regular season.
“It was revenge for the last two years, so that was nice,” junior forward Ellen Nystrom said. “Especially winning on their floor, since they beat us on ours twice.”
Heading into Tuesday, the Rams were coming off of a last-second win against Colorado, who beat CSU in double-overtime in Boulder last year. CSU already knocked off BYU earlier this season, a team that also narrowly beat the Rams in a thriller in Salt Lake City, Utah last year.
“It’s special playing a team you played last year,” Nystrom added. “It’s nice, getting revenge.”
Easy buckets helped the Rams leap out to an early lead and stay on top of the scoreboard wire-to-wire. They outscored the Bears 22-14 in the paint and created 13 points off UNC’s 16 turnovers in the game. The Rams also tallied four blocks on defense.
“They’re as tough a team to guard as we’ve gone up against, they really are,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said. “They cut so hard, they have so many 3-point shooters out there, and I thought our length bothered them a little bit tonight.”
Before Tuesday, the Bears were averaging 10.5 3-pointers per game, a mark that ranked fifth in the nation. But the Rams held them to just 3-for-15 shooting from beyond the arc.
“We just played great defense today and didn’t give them any easy shots,” Nystrom said.
The win was CSU’s fourth of the season in which it held a lead the entire way.
CSU’s leading scorers, Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson, chipped in four points apiece in the first quarter to give CSU a 19-11 advantage after 10 minutes. Gustavsson ended with 12 points and four rebounds on 5-for-7 shooting, and Nystrom balanced the stat sheet with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds.
But it was Jamie Patrick, who struggled to find her shot early in the season, that finished the game as CSU’s leading scorer. The senior guard stroked 3-pointers all night, making more than UNC’s entire team. She went 6-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from 3-point range en route to her team-high 17 points.
“I’ve been saying how my shots have been there, they just weren’t falling,” Patrick said. “It’s nice in the past two games that it’s finally started to fall. But I couldn’t do it without my all my teammates getting me open shots, especially tonight.”
For the second straight game, CSU recorded less than 10 turnovers, giving it away just nine times against the Bears.
“This is a true road game for us, I’m sure we’re a big game on their schedule,” Williams said. “I thought our kids did a nice job of coming in here with a very professional, business-like mindset, and did what they needed to do, got a win.”
CSU guard Hannah Tvrdy saw a familiar face in a UNC uniform Tuesday night in Kourteney Zadina, her former high school teammate from Seward, Nebraska. Zadina led the Bears by netting 17 points as well.
Montana, another Big Sky opponent, awaits CSU in its next contest. The Rams are set to face the Grizzlies in Moby Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“They won the Big Sky last year,” Patrick said of Montana. “We’re kind of excited for that, because they’re going to be a good team. It’s going to be really good for us to keep playing good teams to get ready for conference.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.