Highlights provided by CTV Sports Alexandria Clough and Hayleigh Evans
After offensive struggles in a 56-48 exhibition victory over CSU Pueblo, Colorado State fired on all cylinders offensively en route to a dominant 69-42 season opening victory over Omaha.
Ellen Nystrom opened the Rams scoring with a free throw 1:13 into the first quarter and then a jumper just seconds later.
The Rams’ pair of Swedish seniors led the way on offense throughout the game. Nystrom scored 22 points to lead all scorers and added five rebounds and six assists. Elin Gustavsson also contributed 13 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
“I thought they both, as that game progressed, really had some outstanding play, both offensively and defensively,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “We have a lot of new faces, we have a lot of new faces playing a lot of new roles. This is a new role for these two as well. I don’t know if they’ve ever been asked to be leading scorers throughout their basketball careers. I really liked how they handled the responsibility tonight. And they’re only going to get better.”
The Swedish duo also handled the ball significantly better tonight than they did against Pueblo. The tandem turned the ball over four times each against Pueblo, but cutdown to just one each against Omaha.
“We probably just needed to shake the rust off,” Gustavsson said. “We were not playing in a cautious way, today we just played. Coach told us at halftime to just play, and we did. It worked out.”
CSU shot 44.3 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from three. After converting only four three pointers on 22 attempts against Pueblo, the Rams continued their struggles from deep in the first half tonight. CSU made only one three on 11 attempts in the first half, however, caught fire behind the arc in the second half, going 7-10 behind the arc.
“Three-pointers are coachable and we just said start making them, and they did,” Williams said.
The Rams turned it up a notch defensively as well. They surrendered six less points to Omaha, a Division 1 opponent, than they allowed against Division II Pueblo. Omaha also only shot 31.9 percent from the field.
CSU never trailed in the contest. Their 21-point lead they opened up in the second quarter helped them run away with the win. The largest lead the Rams held in the contest was 29 late in the fourth quarter.
Sofie Tryggedsson also had a strong performance for CSU. She had nine points and three rebounds. After a double-double against Pueblo, Hannah Tvrdy continued her aggressive play, scoring five points and adding five boards.
“I thought Tvrdy played really well tonight,” Williams said. “She had a really good floor game. Defensively, she was outstanding. She was great going to the glass. Her motor is outstanding.”
With the victory, the Rams will move on to the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. They will play the winner of the Washington, Eastern Washington matchup.
No matter the result of that contest, the Rams will be dealing with a talented opponent. Eastern Washington managed to win 20 games last season. Meanwhile, the Huskies of Washington enter the 2016-2017 ranked no. 17 in the AP poll.
“We want to go as far as we can and want to play the best,” Williams said. If we get exposed to teams that are maybe more athletic, like Washington, I hope we get to play that team because we can get exposed and grow from a game like that. It’s fun to have those games early on in the year. Tournament format, big game, big team, and we’ll really see what we have to work on and where we are at.”
The Rams senior leaders, Nystrom and Gustavsson, are eying the opportunity to knock off a talented opponent in the second round of the Women’s NIT as well.
“It’s a challenge but it’s a challenge that we want because they’re so good,” Nystrom said. “It’s something that we don’t have any problems with. It’s fun.”
The second round of the Women’s NIT will be held on either November 13th or 14th. The location and time are to be determined.
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz