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Michael: Williams’ emphasis on defense has led to a Mountain West dynasty

The term dynasty is used too loosely in the sports world, but after narrowly defeating University of Nevada, Las Vegas Saturday, moving to 18-5 on the season and 33-1 in their last 34 regular-season conference games overall, the Colorado State women’s basketball team is closing in on accomplishing exactly that.

Under head coach Ryun Williams, the women’s program has become one of the nation’s most consistent winners, reaching heights never seen before by the mid-major program.

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Between running the table in their conference last season at a perfect 18-0, winning the Mountain West regular season title in each of the last three seasons and currently sitting in first place atop the conference with a 10-1 record against the league, a four-peat would certainly erase any doubt that Colorado State is the Mountain West’s most dominant women’s hoops program.

Winning that often is impressive at any level, but to consistently dominate the competition like the Rams have is a testament to Williams’ leadership. With 108 wins in just five seasons, Williams is already tied with Greg Williams for second most in program history, trailing only Tom Collen, who has 129.

How has Williams been able to to create such consistent success for his program? Defense has been an emphasis of Colorado State’s since Williams took over and the team has been wreaking the benefits ever since.

In their 2015-16 season, CSU ranked fifth in the nation in opponents field goal percentage, sixth in scoring defense and eighth in three-point field goal defense. The Rams were the only program in the nation to finish the season in the top eight of all three. CSU would go on to beat Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game and ultimately reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. While the Rams’ offense is nothing scoff at, it is the defense that deserves the credit.

At 52.3 points per-game the Rams currently rank fourth in scoring defense and second in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding the opposition to a measly 32.4 percent.

In their most recent victory over UNLV, the Rams were able to overcome a poor shooting performance by holding the Rebels to their lowest scoring total of the season at 41. It is nights like that where CSU shows how good they can really be. They do not have to score 70 points per game to win. A stingy performance on the defensive end will serve just as well.

Following the victory over UNLV, Williams talked about how crucial it was for his team to go all out on the defensive end.

“Sometimes you are going to have these nights, and we could have easily lost,” Williams said. “We know that. We guarded like crazy. If you like offense, I apologize. If you like defense, we’ll pat ourselves on the back for that one.”

They say that defense wins championships, and Williams must know that. Colorado State women’s basketball team is proving on a nightly basis that there is some truth to the old adage.

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Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.

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