Video by Sam Bartlett
The Rams had something big to play for Wednesday night.
They wanted a 20th consecutive win, and the place in the CSU record book that came with it for stringing together the longest win-streak in program history.
CSU (23-1, 13-0 MW) set the record in dominating fashion over Utah State (11-13, 6-7 MW), winning 91-64 in front of 1,505 fans in Moby Arena to extend its streak started Nov. 27, 2015.
“We broke a school record, obviously that’s awesome,” guard Jamie Patrick said.
Securing a lasting legacy was important to the Rams, and they made that evident right away, coming out firing on all cylinders to open up a 17-point lead, 32-15, at the end of the first quarter.
The early dominance was courtesy of Patrick’s hot hand out of the gate. The senior dropped 16 points in the opening quarter alone, going five of seven from the floor and 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Her stellar shooting performance came after a game against UNLV on Saturday in which head coach Ryun Williams had to tell Patrick to get more aggressive and shoot more.
“The threes were there, and my teammates were passing to me and I was shooting them,” Patrick said. “Coach didn’t yell at me to keep shooting more. So I shot them.”
And she didn’t cool down. Patrick hit two more treys in the second quarter to increase her total to 23 points at halftime, helping the Rams establish a dominant 52-31 lead before hitting the locker room. She finished with a game-high 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting.
As a team, CSU shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, going 13-for-26 from deep. Part of the reason the Rams were able to light it up from outside was that Utah State came out in a 2-3 zone defense and insisted on staying in it, even after Patrick started netting consecutive treys.
“I was very surprised that they were in zone for so long,” Patrick said. “I thought maybe they would switch out to man a little faster, because even Ellen (Nystrom) was stepping up and hitting threes, and we had multiple people hitting threes on the outside.”
Also in just one half, Nystrom nearly notched a double-double with eight points and nine assists in the first 20 minutes. She ended with an 17-point, 10-assist double-double, her second of the year.
With Nystrom’s vision and passing ability paired with how well CSU has been shooting from outside lately, the Rams are eager to face zone defenses right now.
“I think our kids are excited to see a zone right now, they like that 3-ball going up,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said. “But the interior play is I think what sets it up. We got some really good minutes from Alana (Arias) tonight, we got the ball in the middle of that thing.”
Arias finished with 15 points and five rebounds on 5-for-6 shooting.
Though Utah State features perhaps the Mountain West’s most dangerous player in Funda Nakkasoglu, who scored 20 points to lead the Aggies, CSU’s defense was once again stifling. Nakkasoglu went just 7-for-17 from the floor, and committed five turnovers. In all, the Aggies turned it over 16 times, which CSU converted into 27 points.
On the other hand, CSU committed just 11 turnovers while notching 20 assists as a team.
The 20-game winning streak that cemented this CSU team in the program’s record book Wednesday night is currently the second-longest streak in the nation, behind only women’s basketball powerhouse Connecticut’s 59-game streak that dates back to last season. While the Huskies sit atop the AP Top 25 poll, the Rams have yet to crack it, though they received 40 votes in this week’s poll. The prospect of entering the rankings excites the Rams, but it’s not really a feat they are are attached to accomplishing.
“That would be cool (to be ranked), but it’s not really something that we focus on,” Nystrom said. “We just want to win one game at at time and make it to the (NCAA) Tournament. So that’s not our goal, it’s not our goal to be top 25. But if it happens on the way, of course that’s cool and amazing because it hasn’t been done in a while.”
Next week’s AP Top 25 poll will be released Monday.
CSU’s next game comes against Wyoming in Laramie on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.