CSU women’s basketball embraced the role of underdog Monday night, spoiling the University of Gonzaga’s opening bout by a lopsided score of 65-49.
The shooting troubles that plagued the Rams in their first game of the year against Idaho reared their ugly head once again early against the Bulldogs. From the start, Gonzaga utilized their height advantage down low and was able to conjure up a pair of blocks in the first quarter, swarming the Rams regularly.
Enduring a near six-and-a-half-minute stretch where they failed to score a point after their early bucket, CSU played from behind for most of the game. The Bulldogs took advantage to the tune of a 15-2 run led by their lead scorer Jill Barta. The Rams countered late in the quarter with a slim 5-3 run of their own to pull within 11.
Despite being their first game, the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders. Playing through the inside, Gonzaga punished the Rams in the paint.
In a roller coaster game, the Rams went on a lockdown of their own in the second quarter, parlaying a four-minute scoreless stretch from Gonzaga into a 10-0 run. The Rams eventually tied the game up at 25 a piece despite the treacherous start.
“The poise impressed me,” coach Ryun Williams said. “Our (players) just kept playing and I think they had a belief in what we were doing, we just needed a few shots to drop. That’s where (Sofie Tryggedsson) came in. You saw a rough start but we just kept fighting.”
Going into the half, the Rams led 33-31 with junior guard Sofie Tryggedsson catching fire from behind the arc, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half. One of the youngest teams in the Mountain West, the Rams outscored the Bulldogs 24-11 in the second quarter with the latter going ice cold for much of the quarter.
A sign of maturity, the Rams were able to overcome a slow start in which their offense was unable to piece together any harmony offensively. Turnovers served as an issue for the Rams as they were doubled up 12-6 in the first half. Overcoming mistakes will continue to be key for a young team that seeks to find their footing.
Tryggedsson is being relied upon to pick up some of the points lost due to graduation in the Rams’ dynamic duo of Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson. As one of the few upperclassmen on the team, Tryggedsson is leading by example early for the Rams, serving as the ignitor for the team’s offense in the upset.
“We needed people to step up,” Tryggedsson said. “It has been about Eli and Ellen a lot for the last couple of years. It’s a team effort every time and we see that with Annie coming off the bench and she ends up with 15 rebounds and that’s what we need in this game.”
Following the break, the Rams came out with a renewed vigor. Leaving the Moby Arena faithful standing for over half of the third quarter, the Rams locked down on defense and continued an attempt to break through down low on offense.
“We really didn’t make any adjustments defensively (at halftime),” Williams said. “There were a couple actions that were giving us fits but I just think we were a little more aware of what they were trying to do.”
The Bulldogs finally broke through with their first basket of the second half coming after nearly six minutes had ticked off the clock. Although the Rams were able to stop the Bulldog attack, they were only able to push their run to 7-0 in the beginning half of the third quarter. The run equaled the total number of points allowed by the Rams in the entire quarter.
A stark height advantage in the middle was unable to deter the Rams as they outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-33 in the game. A sign of admirable hustle, the Rams’ effort served as the catalyst for the upset, overcoming less-than-stellar ball control. Junior Annie Brady was able to accrue a double-double, leading the Rams with 15 rebounds to go along with her 11 points.
The upset serves as a juxtaposition from the first game of the year for the Rams and they will look to build off the big win.
“We’ve just been waiting to get on that level,” Brady said. “I think this is just the start and we are just going to build off of that.”
The next opportunity for the Rams to continue their winning ways will be Thursday against Eastern New Mexico as they continue their five-game home stand to begin the year.
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.