For the fourth time in as many years, the Colorado State women’s basketball team is playing postseason basketball.
Despite being bounced from the Mountain West tournament earlier than they expected, the Rams’ regular season title secured them an automatic berth in the WNIT. The Rams are set to host the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Rocky Mountain Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard spoke with Alex Crook of Saint Mary’s Collegian for a preview of the game.
Colin Barnard: How can the Saint Mary’s defense stop two-time Mountain West Player of the Year Ellen Nystrom?
Alex Crook: Saint Mary’s has an inside presence in Megan McKay who can box out and make it hard for offenses down low. The Gaels will need to pick it up in the defensive rebound department, but SMC’s front court of McKay and Sydney Raggio were both top-10 this year in the West Coast Conference in rebounding. If Saint Mary’s can force Nystrom to shoot from the perimeter and limit ball movement from there, they should be able to find a way.
CB: CSU is able to run a dominant 2-3 zone. Has Saint Mary’s played against many zone defenses this season and what can they do to overcome it?
AC: They’ve played against some and they’ve overcome them by making the extra pass to get the look they want, which is what they’ll need to do on Thursday. Strong, quick passes for the open corner three will be the way to success. When Saint Mary’s drives inside, they have shooters on the perimeter they can send the ball to. Saint Mary’s will need to make Colorado State’s 2-3 collapse in the paint so there’s room to feed those outside shooters. If McKay can’t get a look inside, she’ll have shooters like Devyn Galland and Carly Turner ready.
CB: Who is Saint Mary’s biggest difference maker?
AC: Saint Mary’s is special in that they can have a different hero on any given night. McKay is a force down low, but again, Galland can launch from three. McKay though is the primary threat. She can rebound, she can box out and she can score down low. A player who can make life hard on both ends of the floor is someone you want on your team.
CB: How can Saint Mary’s win this game?
AC: Saint Mary’s can win by coming out with a strong start, making a statement from the opening tip with their interior defense and staying focused. The Gaels enjoyed big starts out of halftime in the WCC Tournament, so having a cushion going into the break will make things easier in the second half, should the Gaels keep their focus.
CB: How can they lose the game?
AC: Saint Mary’s will lose if they aren’t a force down low – on both sides of the ball – and if they continue to turn the ball over. If you let a player like Nystrom have her way, it will be a long night.
CB: What is your final prediction? Do the Gaels have what it takes to pull the upset?
AC: It’ll be close. 72-67, CSU.
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_