After Wyoming’s Liv Roberts left the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a knee injury, the Colorado State women’s basketball team pulled away to defeat their northern rival 61-54.
The Swedish duo, Elin Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom, once again paved the way for the Rams (19-6, 11-2 Mountain West). Gustavsson finished with 26 points and eight rebounds while Nystrom added 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists. No other Ram reached double-digits.
After falling down early, Wyoming slowly chipped their way into the lead, eventually gaining their first lead at the end of the third quarter. With momentum heading into the final frame and their best player firing on all cylinders, Wyoming seemed poised to pull away.
But at the 9:32 mark of the fourth quarter, Liv Roberts, who had already scored 20 points and acted as a major matchup problem all evening long, exited the game with an injury. The Rams would go on to outscore the Cowgirls 18-9 the rest of the game and come away with the Border War victory.
“I don’t know if we beat them if Liv Roberts doesn’t go down,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “That was a nip-and-tuck basketball game and she was driving their team. She’s one of the most difficult matchups in the league.”
Despite having nine healthy options, Williams opted for a six-player rotation for the entire game. Citing the Cowgirls’ offensive alignments, Williams believed this limited range of players defended their system best.
“The way they were running their motion, they ran it so hard and so well,” Williams said. “We just put the kids out there that we felt could guard it the best. So that wasn’t the plan going in, to be honest with you. But the way they were running stuff, that’s how we went.”
Although Gustavsson and Nystrom carried CSU for most of the evening, the Rams got some key scoring from its second options throughout the fourth quarter. Hannah Tvrdy scored seven of her nine points in the closing quarter and Stine Austgulen made her lone three-pointer of the evening.
“It’s big. Obviously people are paying more attention to me and Ellie,” Gustavsson said. “So that gives other players more room. It’s perfect for us.”
Just as important was the defensive intensity. A unit known for their prowess on the defensive side of the ball, the Rams did just that in the final quarter. Constant on-ball pressure led to hurried passes from Wyoming and resulted in costly turnovers down the stretch.
Myanne Hamm’s impact defensively was crucial for the Rams, as she recorded two steals in 26 minutes of action.
“Myanne’s got golden hands, those things are magical,” Williams said. “She gets touches, pokes. She’s a nuisance, and she disrupts the ball. Myanne has been one of our MVPs down the stretch. She’s instinctively maybe one of the best defenders we have.”
Now two games clear of the second place Cowgirls, CSU gets a week of rest before their next game. The Rams will host New Mexico on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.
Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com