The WNIT has been a tale of two stories for the Colorado State women’s basketball team. In the two games CSU has played in the tournament, they won big and got blown out by one of the nation’s elite women’s basketball programs.
The Rams dominated their Nebraska-Omaha Friday night, defeating the Mavericks by 17 points in a game that was really not even as close as that score would indicate.
Behind the Swedish duo of Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson, the Rams dominated in all facets of the game; playing physical defense, rebounding, passing, and scoring in the transition game along with the half-court offense.
“It’s good, we needed this,” Gustavsson said following the win over Omaha. “It’s always a challenge to start a season. It’s sort of like an exam. It is just fun that we played together. We played as a team. We had good energy on and off the court. It was just a good start.”
Following the victory, the Rams did not yet know who their next opponent in the tournament would be, but CSU women’s basketball head coach Ryun Williams embraced the spontaneity of the situation and explained how the tournament was a chance for the players to just go out and play.
“This time of year, the number one concern is your basketball team,” Williams said. “It is kind of fun to just go and play right now. They (the team) are tired of practice and the prep is more (about) us, than it is an opponent.”
Although Colorado State did not technically know who they were going to be facing in the second round, it was likely that they were going to have to square off with Washington Huskies, currently ranked in the top-20 in both major polls.
“That is what we want,” Williams said, referring to a chance to play Washington. “We want to go as far as we can and you want to play the best. I think in order to really grow as a basketball team and I believe this team is going to be exceptional as the year goes on, but we need to get exposed.”
Williams continued on the prospects of facing Washington, “We can grow from a game like that and also it is a game where you better play with your hair on fire. It is fun to have those games early on in the year. Tournament format, big game, big team, we can really see what we need to work on and where we are at.”
After the WU women’s basketball team took care of business, handily defeating Eastern Washington 100-52 Friday night, the Rams got their wish.
CSU rolled into Washington with big hopes, but the Huskies quickly proved why they were a Final Four team last year and other than an early 6-0 lead, the Rams were never really in it, losing 101-68 at the hands of the Huskies.
Under Williams, the program has been known for being one of the strongest defensive teams in the country, but Washington’s size and range proved to be too much for CSU in this early season matchup.
Despite being blown out by the Huskies, the Rams should still be feeling confident going into the rest of the season. It was an ugly game, but CSU did not play that poorly. The Huskies simply could not miss from behind the arc, tying a school record 16 made three-point attempts in the game.
Williams now has an opportunity to do exactly what had he had hoped, use the WNIT as an opportunity to evaluate where the Rams are at as a team and adjust going forward. Despite returning nine letterwinners from 2015-16, there are a lot of new key contributors and even some of the old ones are now in new roles.
Colorado State will play a consolation WNIT game Thursday Nov. 17, when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to face off with the Cornhuskers.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.