After head coach Ryun Williams said his team was not interested in sharing the Mountain West regular season title after their last victory, Colorado State throttled San Diego State 80-46 to win the conference outright for the fourth consecutive year.
In what was truly a team effort, three different Rams reached double digits. Elin Gustavsson led the way with 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Stine Austgulen tied her career-high with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 5-for-7 from three-point range. Hannah Tvrdy added 15 points while playing all 40 minutes of action.
Though she did not score as prolifically as usual, Ellen Nystrom’s game management was on full display. She finished with 10 assists, eight rebounds and seven points. Her ability to draw the double-team, especially in the first half, proved crucial as she was able to find an open teammate more often than not.
With under seven minutes remaining in the first half and the Rams leading by just one, they went on a 21-5 run to close the half in dominating fashion. As a team they shot a remarkable 67 percent from three-point range in the first half with four different players making at least one from deep. Overall the Rams finished 53 percent from the field and 60 percent from three.
“We moved the ball well, we found the open shooter and we were ready to shoot tonight,” Williams said in a statement. “We felt we’ve been due for a night like this as far as shooting the basketball. We’ve got kids that can make those shots when (the defense) dedicates to Ellie and Ellen. We located the open shooter and we made the right plays.”
To stifle any hopes of a comeback the Rams tacked on another run in the third quarter and held the Aztecs to four total points in the period.
Defensively CSU caused 10 turnovers while limiting the Aztecs to 27 percent shooting from the field. Despite their leading scorer McKynzie Fort scoring 15 points, SDSU was unable to find any rhythm on offense.
“I liked how we kept the ball in front of us,” Williams said. “I thought our middle defenders, kids like Amanda and Ellie, did a really good job of playing big, wide and athletic. We located shooters all night as well. We really made it difficult for them to get anything going.”
A game like this where every player made contributions comes at the perfect time for the Rams. It serves as a definite confidence booster with just two regular season games remaining and is the perfect way to seal the outright conference title.
“We do feel really good about it,” Williams said. “I’m proud of these kids, they don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
With the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament already locked up, the Rams will travel to Laramie to take on Wyoming in the second installment of the Border War on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_