Less than 72 hours removed from winning their first postseason game in 14 years, the Colorado State women’s basketball team was defeated 58-57 by the University of California-Davis in the second round of the women’s National Invitational Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
The Rams led throughout the majority of the game, but offensive inconsistencies hurt CSU tremendously down the stretch. Down one with eight seconds left in the game, the Rams were able to get the ball to two-time defending Mountain West Player of the Year Ellen Nystrom, but her mid-range jump shot was just off, bouncing off the iron and into the hands of the Aggies.
“UC-Davis played a heck of a game,” head coach Ryun Williams said of their opponent after the game. “They made some big shots. They made just one more play than we did…It stinks to lose, but these kids went down fighting.”
After failing to score a basket in the first half of Thursday’s victory over St. Mary’s, the senior guard got off to a much quicker start against the Aggies. Nystrom started the contest 5-of-5 from the field, recording 13 points in the first half alone.
It was a complete performance overall for the Lulea, Sweden native, as Nystrom led all scorers in the game with 18 points while also recording six rebounds and five assists.
Fellow Scandinavian Elin Gustavsson finished the game with a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds). Much like Sofie Tryggedsson, the senior forward also struggled with foul trouble in the contest, playing the entire fourth quarter with four personal fouls.
“I tried to play smarter,” Gustavsson said. “I was late sometimes and that is why I got the fouls, but if you think about it (not fouling) too much during the game, then you are going to foul because you are not playing hard enough on defense. So I tried not to focus on it too much and play like I always do.”
Sophomore guard Tryggedsson continued to tear through the competition this postseason, finishing the game with 12 points and making two of the team’s three 3-pointers.
Despite playing in foul trouble throughout most of the game and ultimately fouling out with 8:35 remaining in the game, Tryggedsson was able to bail the Rams out of multiple stagnant possessions by making timely jump shots throughout the game. Trygedsson scored in double figures in each of the Rams’ WNIT games.
“She had a really good postseason,” Williams said. “From the conference tournament throughout this (tournament), you saw Sofie really grow. She can use this as a springboard into next season.”
Without Gustavsson and Tryggedsson on the floor, CSU finished the third quarter with a scoreless drought of five-plus minutes. After Tryggedsson was disqualified in the fourth, the Rams went three straight minutes without recording a field goal.
“I doubt they would have stayed in the zone if Sofie (Tryggedsson) was in the basketball game,” Williams said. “She was that ‘hot hand’ tonight. She was playing with great confidence, she was catching and shooting, so not having her on the floor, it took a bullet away from us…We missed her, we really did.”
Even with the offensive troubles the Rams led throughout this contest and made up for their lack of scoring with aggressive team defense.
“It was an aggressive basketball game,” Williams said. “They were aggressive with the drive, they were aggressive with the post-up. We got them in a little bit of foul trouble and they got us in a little bit of foul trouble.”
CSU was able to hold the Aggies leading scorer, Morgan Bertsch, to zero points on 0-4 shooting. The redshirt sophomore forward finished the game with five rebounds before fouling out in 18 minutes of play. Bertsch averages 16.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per-game.
Despite holding Bertsch to a goose egg, three UC-Davis players finished in double-digits.
“They put five really good basketball players on the floor,” Williams said. “They all drive, they all dribble, they all pass, so they’re really difficult to guard…I thought we did a great job on Bertsch, we just went too long during a couple stretches without scoring the basketball.”
After beating the Rams, the UC-Davis Aggies will travel to Washington State in the Sweet-16 (third round) later this week. Time and date have yet to be determined.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.