Nystrom hits game winner to lift CSU over in-state rival CU Buffs

Sam Lounsberry

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpxtTltRRLE[/embedyt]
Video by Sam Lounsberry
 
Finally.
 
A last-second game went CSU’s way for a 64-63 win in Wednesday night’s women’s hoops showdown at Moby Arena with in-state rival Colorado (3-3).
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CSU head women’s basketball coach Ryun Williams celebrates a 64-63 last-second win over CU on Wednesday night in Moby Arena. Ryan Arb/Collegian
The Rams (6-1) had to make two seemingly game-winning buckets over the Buffs. With time winding down and the Rams down one point, CSU center Alana Arias blocked CU standout forward Jamee Swan, and forward Ellen Nystrom scooped up the ball and went coast-to-coast to finish a bucket and put CSU up 62-61 with 13.6 seconds left.
 
But it was far from over.
 
Following a timeout, CU freshman Kennedy Leonard answered with a wild scoop shot around CSU guard Hannah Tvrdy to put the Buffs back up 63-62 with just 3.6 seconds left.
 
Nystrom would have the final say, though, as she caught the ball in the short corner on a sideline in-bounds, faced up and drilled a jumper over a CU defender to push the Rams over the top once and for all, 64-63. The forward out of Lulea, Sweden was just 2-for-11 shooting before her last two clutch shots. 
 
“I missed a lot, but the ball went in,” Nystrom said. “I was just trying to be aggressive and keep being aggressive even though I missed.”
 
She finished with 14 points, four rebounds and a team-high eight assists.
 
After falling in double-overtime to the Buffs last year in Boulder, the Rams felt they deserved Wednesday’s win at the buzzer. It marks CSU’s first victory over CU since 2009, and fourth-year head coach Ryun Williams’ first-ever win over the Buffs.
 
“It healed my heart,” junior forward Elin Gustavsson said. “This makes up for the last two years.”
 
In the 2013-14 season, Gustavsson scored 21 against the Buffs in a tight 63-59 loss. Then last year in Boulder, Gustavsson went for a career-high 28 points. On Wednesday, she led the Rams again in both scoring and rebounding with 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting and seven boards.
 
“Can we play CU every time, please?” Gustavsson joked. “They just bring something out of me, maybe just because it’s CU.”
 
CU overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half to close it down the stretch. The Rams led 48-38 with 1:25 in the third quarter, and opened the fourth with a 49-41 lead. But CU’s leading scorer Jamee Swan began imposing her will in the post to bring the Buffs back.
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CSU guard Jamie Patrick defends CU guard Alexis Robinson’s jumpshot in Wednesday night’s 64-63 CSU win over the Buffaloes in Moby Arena. Ryan Arb/Collegian
 
“We knew it was going to be a tight game, because it’s always been a tight game, so we just kept playing,” Nystrom said.
 
Swan faced foul trouble all night. Before picking up her fourth foul with 1:59 to play in the third quarter, she had just three points and two rebounds. She finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, though.
 
CSU 6-foot-4 center Alana Arias battled with the athletic Swan down the stretch, and Williams was impressed with the job she did. Swan finished shooting just 3-for-10 from the field, getting a lot of her damage done at the charity stripe, where she went 6-for-8.
 
“We had to have the size on Swan,” Williams said. “She’s a bouncy, athletic inside player. And you saw her put it on the floor. That’s a tough guard. …I was really pleased with Alana in that situation, and even on the offensive end as well. It’s nice to be able to throw it in there.”
 
Arias finished with eight points and five rebounds.
 
The first bucket of the game went to CSU from a slice to the basket by Nystrom, but that was the last time the Rams led until late in the first quarter. Gustavsson hit a three from the right corner to return the lead to CSU 17-16 with 48 seconds to go in the first quarter. CU then scored courtesy of a Makenzie Ellis jumper to briefly regain the lead, as the Buffs lost Gustavsson in transition the following play, who scored two on a Nystrom assist to keep the lead in favor of CSU 19-18 at the end of the first.
 
The opening half as a whole was back-and-forth, as the lead changed six times in the first two quarters.
 
But control appeared be in CSU’s hands in the start to the second frame. Freshman forwrad Amanda Kantzy came off the bench to help the Rams extend their lead to as much as seven, 33-26, with 1:51 in the half. But that was the last time the Rams scored before hitting the locker room, allowing for a 5-0 CU run to close the Buffs’ halftime deficit to just two points, 33-31.
 
Foul trouble hit both squads in the start to the third quarter. Less than five minutes into the third frame, CU had already committed five fouls, and had two players with three fouls on the bench, including Swan, their leading scorer. But tough calls affected the Rams, too. CSU’s starting point guard Keyora Wharry committed three fouls in the first half, and picked up her fourth just 18 seconds into the second half and was replaced by Tvrdy for the rest of the third quarter. Wharry checked back in with 8:00 to play in the final quarter, but fouled out with 6:16 remaining to finish with no points on two missed shots and five rebounds in 12 minutes.
 
Wharry will have  a chance to bounce back in CSU’s next game on Tuesday at Northern Colorado. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Greeley.
 
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.