An unlikely hero emerged Sunday afternoon for the CSU women’s basketball team: Alana Arias.
The 6-foot-4 center was averaging only 3.3 points per game prior to Sunday’s contest against Florida Atlantic (5-3) but exploded for 20 points on 9-10 shooting to carry the Rams over the Owls 59-46 through an extremely shaky game for CSU (7-3).
The Rams started sloppily, making just two of their first 12 attempts and allowing the Owls to jump out to an early 10-2 lead behind eight second-chance points.
Aside from the hitting the first bucket of the game, CSU didn’t lead until Arias checked into the game and scored six straight with post moves from the block to put the Rams up 20-17 with just over six minutes to play in the first. Junior guard Victoria Wells also chipped in six first half points off the bench to keep the Rams within reach.
Arias said her six point run provided her a major confidence boost.
“I wasn’t playing much (before today), and then making three baskets in a row to help my team was really special,” Arias said.
The Owls went back and forth with the Rams the rest of the first half to take a two point lead over CSU into the locker room, 28-26.
After the break, the Owls opened up a nine-point lead with two layups by Shaneese Bailey and Malia Kency followed by a three pointer from Lauren Williams.
An unfortunate break for the Rams followed when senior point guard Gritt Ryder drove down the court and pulled her right hamstring, leading to her exit from the game.
But the Rams fought on, determined to win despite the loss of their unquestioned leader so far this season.Williams’ three-pointer would be Florida Atlantic’s last field goal for over 11 minutes, allowing CSU to go on a 21-1 run that put the Rams up 49-38 with under five minutes to play.
CSU packed into a 2-3 zone the entirety of the game, forcing FAU to shoot from behind the arc, where the Owls shot just 5-31 on the day.
Head coach Ryun Williams said his players seemed motivated by Ryder’s injury to step up.
“Our kids have each other’s backs,” Williams said. “I was proud of how they picked themselves up out after (Ryder) went out.”
Victoria Wells stepped partly out of her comfort zone to act as a point guard in the second half, taking over part of the responsibility of handling the ball, bringing it up the floor against FAU’s full court man-to-man press, a role normally handled by Ryder.
“We knew we had to step up in a lot of spots she is normally there for,” Wells said. “We came together a lot stronger after we lost her,” she confirmed.
During FAU’s scoring drought, Arias continued to be effective, hitting the layup that brought CSU within two before Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson found each other for two consecutive buckets that gave the Rams their first lead of the half.
The Owls were unable to end their scoreless stretch in time for a comeback. When Bailey finally scored again, there was just over four minutes to play, and FAU could only come as close nine points.
From there, the Rams were able to seal the game from the free throw line, where Arias contributed two more and Wells picked up an extra four to finish with 10 total points for the game, the only Ram besides Arias to reach double figures. The duo combined for 12-14 shooting while the rest of the team went 10-31.
“The key to our victory was two kids: Alana Arias and Victoria Wells,” Williams admitted. “Our kids did a decent job of getting (Arias) touches at the right time, and the energy came from Victoria Wells. She saved our bacon.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.