A good old-fashioned shootout.
The CSU women’s hoops team (17-1, 7-0 MW) kept pace with San Jose State (6-14, 4-5 MW) on the road to steal an 80-78 win in a game that couldn’t have been more neck and neck.
Though there were 19 lead changes and seven ties throughout the game, someone had to come out on top. Thanks to a late jump shot from CSU forward Emilie Hesseldal, that team was the Rams.
“Our experience showed down the stretch,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said. “A number of kids made big shots. Key (Wharry) was big late, everybody took their turn making plays.”
Hesseldal had only one other bucket on the night before drilling a mid-range jumper with 55 seconds remaining to give CSU the lead once and for all, 80-78.
“Don’t think,” Hesseldal said to describe her mind-state to take the shot. “Really, don’t think about it too much. I just had to take the momentum from the other players who made big shots down the stretch.”
But Hesseldal nearly allowed the Spartans to force overtime. In their final possession, SJSU guard Dezz Ramos broke down the Rams defense and drew a foul on Hesseldal with 1.8 seconds remaining.
“Jamie (Patrick) was yelling at me, but it happened,” Hesseldal admitted.
But Ramos, a junior transfer from Weber State failed to step up and sink either of her two free throws in the clutch.
“After she missed the first one, I knew all we had to do was box out and grab the rebound,” Hesseldal said.
Ellen Nystrom snagged the board, and with it, the Rams kept their historical start to the season alive with a 14th consecutive victory. Hesseldal finished with only four points, but was dominant on the glass for 11 rebounds and also dished a game-high six assists.
“San Jose was fantastic tonight,” Williams said. “They just kept their foot on the throttle the whole game. They were hard to get slowed down tonight. They made a lot of tough shots.”
Though CSU won it down the stretch with Hesseldal’s shot, it was a third quarter scoring frenzy by Jamie Patrick that brought the Rams back within reach. At the half, they trailed SJSU by seven, 42-35.
Patrick came out of the locker room with a hot hand. She scored CSU’s first 12 points of the second half, and did so in multiples of three: first a 3-pointer, then three free throws, then two more treys.
But Patrick’s shooting clinic provided CSU no additional comfort. The Spartans kept right up with a slew of buckets of their own. Plus, CSU standout forward Ellen Nystrom was on the bench with her fourth foul, which she picked with over 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Heading into the fourth, SJSU lead 63-61.
“Keyora (Wharry) was in foul trouble, too,” Williams said. “It hurt us, it really did. (Freshman guard Callie) Kaiser came in and gave us four big points, we needed those.”
Patrick and Ramos each ended with 18 points a piece to lead their respective teams. Nystrom finished with a characteristic balance on the scorer’s sheet, notching 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
CSU’s next game comes against Wyoming at home on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
With the win, CSU remains just a game behind Fresno State (8-0) in the Mountain West. The Rams face the Bulldogs in Moby Arena on March 1.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @samlounz.