Big Sky, little chance

Sam Lounsberry

Games are won in the second quarter.

At least by the CSU women’s basketball team.

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The Rams (8-1) outscored Montana 26-8 in the second quarter in Moby Arena on Thursday night en route to a 75-43 win, marking the sixth game CSU has held an opponent to single-digits in the second quarter this season.

“Well I tell our assistant coaches the first quarter is theirs, because they do the scouts, and then I’ll take the second,” CSU coach Ryun Williams joked. “Just kidding. I think our kids just get into the flow of the game, I think we’ve got kids that like to compete. Once they get lathered up they really get going.”

The Grizzlies (5-3) looked like an even match for CSU through the opening 10 minutes, after which they trailed just 15-12.

But the Rams didn’t take long to make it clear they were the better the team. They opened the second frame with a 13-0 run, for which senior guard Keyora Wharry was integral. She scored eight points in the period, all on close buckets created by blowing past defenders with zero chance at staying in front of the athletic guard.

“I just was more aggressive,” Wharry said. “It seemed there was a lot of openings, they gave me quite a bit of space … so I just went.”

Her second quarter hot streak was motivated in part by being pulled out of the game by Williams after starting with two turnovers in the first quarter.

“He gave me the look, and I already knew,” Wharry said.

She finished with a balanced 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Montana, the Big Sky Conference champs from a year ago and preseason favorite in this year’s Big Sky Coaches’ Poll, was the second team out of the Big Sky the Rams routed this week. They beat Northern Colorado 62-46 on the road  Tuesday night.

“The Big Sky is a heck of a conference, the Mountain West is a heck of a conference,” Williams said. “It was a big week. We had a lot of big games, we call it the gauntlet. You can even go back to the BYU game, that’s where it all started.

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“I thought we might be a little fried. And with a one day prep for a really good team in Montana who runs a lot of different actions, we had serious concerns coming into this game,” Williams added.

Since the season began, Williams has seen his team inch closer to putting together a mistake-free 40 minutes, and he thought Thursday was the closest it’s been.

“We challenged our kids with that,” Williams said. “You can tell we’re getting close, our kids are hungry to really put it together. That’s what we talked about today, let’s put 40 minutes together. We have good players, let’s not just do it on the defensive end, let’s do it on the offensive end. …A lot of kids scored it tonight.”

CSU seemed able to score on Montana in any manner it chose. Four scored 10 or more as Ellen Nystrom led with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Elin Gustavsson scored 11 and Alana Arias had 12 off the bench to join Nystrom and Wharry in double-figures.

“We have good passers and like to take advantage of our length,” the 6-foot-4 Arias said. “So we like to play inside out.”

The win gave CSU its fifth in as many games.

Montana stops in Wyoming on its way home to play the Cowgirls on Saturday at 2 p.m., and the Rams await Oklahoma-Panhandle State to come to Moby Arena. CSU’s tipoff with the Aggies is set for Saturday at 2 p.m.

Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.