Colorado State women’s basketball returned to Moby Arena Saturday after their stint in Denver and had the fans on the edge of their seat as they took the nail biter over Brigham Young, 56-54.
The Rams won the opening tip and hit the ground running with a Hannah Tvrdy layup directly after the tip. Fellow guards Grace Colaivalu and Sofie Tryggedsson kept the scoring going for the Rams as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the first quarter.
The Rams momentum slowed drastically as the quarter wound down with the Rams ceding a 9-0 run to the Cougars to go into the second quarter down 14-11, despite shooting 42 percent compared to just 29 percent for their opposition. The Rams have made a trend of limiting opponents as they sat at 16th in the nation in opponent shooting percentage coming into their seventh game of the year.
“We had a good game plan coming out,” Annie Brady said. “Every game we are getting better as a team at executing the game plans. We did a good job communicating, helping, keeping the paint. We are just getting better at executing the game plan.”
In the second quarter the Rams began to flex their meddle, outscoring the Cougars 18-5 in a quarter that saw the Rams go on a 16-1 run to end the half. Defense served as the catalyst with the Rams limiting BYU without a point in the final six minutes. The run was ignited by a 3-pointer off the hand of under the radar junior, Callie Kaiser who has made a living off the bench.
The Rams went into the halftime break with a 29-19 lead spearheaded by their guard duo of Colaivalu and Tvrdy, who had seven and eight points respectively to lead the Rams. Another key bench piece for coach Ryun Williams, junior Brady had six points and five rebounds in the first half.
“It’s a collective thing,” Brady said. “It starts way before the clock starts, we’re together as a team in the locker room, it’s a team effort. Bench or starting it doesn’t matter.”
Coming out of the break, the Rams extended their lead to 34-20 before a slump that allowed the Cougars to get within five, going on a 16-7 run to cut the Rams lead to five going into the final quarter. The lopsided run was led by the Cougars outshooting the Rams by nearly 30 percent. The Rams were able to finally cede their lead in turnovers to the Cougars after a sloppy start.
As the scoring drought pushed on, the Cougars were able to cut the lead to a single point before back to back 3-pointers from Stine Austgulen to ignite the Moby faithful and force BYU to call a timeout. Austgulen served as a fire starter off the bench for the Rams, a role she was delegated to due to her basketball knowledge and senior leadership.
“(It’s) not necessarily that we need a shot or we need a basket,” Austgulen said. “I got the ball and I was open two possessions in a row. I didn’t shoot a lot of shots today but I’m a shooter and that’s my job so I just shot them and they went in.”
As the lead continued to dwindle, CSU struggled to pull ahead and seal the game, eventually allowing the Cougars to come with two points with 38 seconds left. After an empty possession by the Rams, the Cougars used their second to last timeout with seven seconds to go. Following the timeout, Williams used one of his own after seeing the alignment of the Cougars coming out of the break.
“(We wanted) to see their alignment and also their personnel,” Williams said. “See where they put their shooters, where they put their scorers and then we put another guard in the game. We subbed Sofie in there who’s been in a lot of those situations. Just a little chess match late game.”
The Rams caused the Cougars to travel and turn the ball over with three seconds left to seal the victory.
Williams and company head into their own showdown against Colorado on Wednesday night with a three-game win streak and a 5-2 record overall. The Rams will host the Buffs and look to avenge their loss from last season when CU was ranked inside the top 20.
The win over the Cougars completes the double-header for CSU athletics. Earlier in the day, the men’s team defeated Colorado 72-63.
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.