An exhibition victory over CSU Pueblo shook some rust off for the Rams women’s basketball team before beginning the 2016 season.
Ellen Nystrom led all scorers with 17 points while also adding five rebounds and four assists. Redshirt junior Hannah Tvrdy had a strong showing as well, contributing 11 points and grabbing eight boards. A possession in the third quarter in which she fell to the ground to tip out two offensive rebounds reflects her gritty effort on the night.
“I think for me what I like to do is go out there and hustle and give my all,” Tvrdy said. “Rebounds and defense are effort, so I think that’s something I can bring every night.”
The game began by Nystrom and fellow senior Elin Gustavsson scoring the Rams first 10 points. Though the Swedish duo hit the ground running for the Rams, Pueblo was able to stick around for a while. Thanks to a technical foul called on CSU head coach Ryun Williams, Pueblo was able to cut CSU’s lead to 23-18 by the end of the first quarter.
“If I told you what I said my mom would read what you would write and she would be upset with me,” Williams said. “I deserved it.”
Neither team was able to grab momentum in the second quarter. The Rams clung to a 34-29 lead entering halftime. However, in the third quarter the Rams kept the scrappy Thunderwolves in check. The Rams held Pueblo to just four points in the quarter. This was the turning point of the game. The 12 point lead the Rams built by the end of the quarter was enough for them to win the game.
“We came out and executed that third quarter.” Williams said. “We actually showed some patience. When we show some patience offensively we can be difficult to guard. We kind of settled in a little bit. That was a positive quarter, but you need to sustain that.”
Pueblo was unable to find any rhythm shooting the ball throughout the first three quarters. However, things finally clicked for them with a little over one minute remaining in the contest. CSU was sitting comfortably with a 12 point lead late in the fourth, but Pueblo managed to cut the deficit to six with under one minute left. However it was too little too late for Pueblo, as CSU hung on for a 56-48 win.
“It was an exhibition all right,” Williams said. “It’s always good to just play that game to get whatever anxiety you have in your system out. It just shows we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for next Friday.”
Though Nystrom and Tvrdy were the only CSU scorers in double-digits, the Rams had encouraging performances from their freshmen. Jordyn Edwards shot 50 percent from the floor, adding five points and a pair of steals and blocks.
“Jordyn can change the game and you see that,” Williams said. “I see that young lady just getting better and better and playing more and more. The energy that Jordyn and Tvrdy can bring together could be a nice little backcourt for us.”
Liah Davis also scored four points in limited minutes on the floor.
“Leah gives you somebody to throw it to down inside and we don’t really have that,” Williams said. “We are going to need more production out of our fours and fives and Leah can give it to us if we decide to go that way.”
Rebounding and not turning the ball over will be major points of emphasis for Williams moving forward. The Rams barely outrebounded Pueblo (47-45). The Thunderwolves are an aggressive bunch, but the competition is only going to go up from here.
“We’ve got to rebound better,” Williams said. “They’re a big physical team. We’re gonna face that on a whole different level pretty soon. We just need to play with a more fierce and more tough mentality and attitude. We didn’t have that tonight, we got pushed around in some areas.”
To the naked eye, turning the ball over 12 times does not seem concerning. But when eight of those turnovers (4 a piece) are from Nystrom and Gustavsson, the senior leaders of the team, it may be something to worry about.
“I think I’m going to have to get used to playing with the ball more and making the right decisions,” Nystrom said. “A lot of the times when I made those turnovers I didn’t make the right decision. So I just need to keep calm and keep the ball in my hands.”
The Rams will look to prove that they’ve truly shaken off the rust next Friday in their first regular season game of the season. They will square off against Omaha in the first round of the Preseason WNIT at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena.
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz