When you outshoot your opponent from the field, 3-point range and the free-throw line, you ought to be able to come away with the win. And that’s what Colorado State (15-1, 5-0 MW) did Saturday afternoon for a 69-49 victory at Utah State (8-9, 3-3 MW).
The Rams stifled a potent offensive USU team, further establishing their identity as a strong defensive team. The Aggies came into the game averaging 71.2 points per game, which ranked second in the Mountain West, and is more than any opponent has scored against CSU in regulation this year (CSU allowed 73 in an overtime win at Navy).
“Every game we treat with the utmost respect … by no means did we think we were going to hold them to 49 points,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said. “That was just an outstanding defensive effort by our kids.”
USU took a quick 6-0 lead, but it was all downhill from there for the Aggies. CSU lead 16-10 by the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to three 3-pointers by Jamie Patrick. She went 6-for-11 from behind the arc in total.
“It helps us out a lot,” Williams said of Patrick’s outside shooting. “… People dedicate to Jamie and it helps us spread the floor. We saw a lot of zone tonight, and she loves shooting against a zone. … She’s just got a really good shooting mindset. She’s a really good maker. Jamie plays well in big games, and this was a big game for us.”
Patrick led all scorers with 20 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Alana Arias recorded 18 points and eight rebounds while coming off of the bench, just one game after dropping 16 and 10 at San Diego State.
The Rams took a 35-20 lead into halftime thanks to 10 USU turnovers, and a huge disparity in outside shooting. CSU made six 3-pointers in the first half compared to just one by USU. The Aggies went 1-for-14 from outside in total.
“We were very disciplined on their shooters,” Williams said. “… We’ve got some length. I think we contest really well when people shoot. We take pride in contesting every shot and I thought we rebounded really well tonight as well, and that allowed us to get out and run a little bit in that first half and got some separation.”
The second half was more of the same. Unlike the early season loss at Penn and Wednesday’s close call at San Diego State, CSU never let the Aggies inch their way back in during the final 20 minutes.
“We were really solid for 40 minutes,” Williams said. “And it’s not that we weren’t solid against San Diego State. … But our kids stayed locked in against Utah State for really the whole game.”
The MW’s leading scorer Funda Nakkasoglu (21.6 points per game entering Saturday) scored 19 points, but was held to 6-for-14 on field goal attempts, and the Aggies were outscored by 20 points when she was on the floor. Williams credited Hannah Tvrdy with keeping Nakkasoglu in check defensively.
CSU remains undefeated in conference play for now at 5-0. The Rams will be back in action Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they hosts Air Force. CSU will then have a week off before traveling to San Jose State.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.