Rams advance to semifinals with win over San Jose State

Eddie Herz

Highlights courtesy of Mountain West Network

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Despite a quarterfinal scare from No. 8 San Jose State, the Colorado State women’s basketball team moved on to the Mountain West Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals with a 65-60 win over the Spartans. 

“Survive and advance, that’s what we did,” said head coach Ryun Williams. “San Jose State is always a tough matchup. They score the ball so well and they can score so fast with the three ball. So no lead is ever safe when you play San Jose.”

The Rams got off to an ideal start and looked to be on the verge of turning the game into a blowout victory. At the end of the opening quarter CSU held a 16-7 advantage, holding San Jose State to only 18.2 percent from the field.

07 MAR 2017: Colorado State University takes on the San Jose State University during the 2017 Mountain West Conference Women’s Basketball Championship at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV. Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos

Colorado State continued to build its lead from there. At halftime the Rams led 31-21. CSU held a lead as big as 13 late in the third quarter.

However, the sharp-shooting from Jasmine Smith and Dezz Ramos that helped San Jose State knock off San Diego State in the opening round began to show up in the fourth quarter.

“These kids (SJSU) shoot it and they shoot it from deep,” Williams said. “And they’ve got a playmaker in Ramos. So what they put out there is extremely difficult to defend. They’ll make a couple and then they can make five more in a row.”

Ramos scored 34 against SDSU in round one and followed that performance with 19 points against Colorado State on Tuesday.

After two converted free throws from Ramos, San Jose State cut CSU’s lead to only one with 2:06 remaining.

CSU senior Elin Gustavsson provided a much needed answer on the following possession, finding the bottom of the net with a jump shot to put CSU up by three. Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom each hit a pair of a free throws in the final minute to secure the 65-60 win.

Within the Rams’ four year streak of earning the Mountain West Tournament’s top seed, they had lost in the quarterfinals twice. Gustavsson believes the experience her team has gained in similar situations helped keep CSU under control amidst the Spartans’ comeback attempt.

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“We have experience from this season too,” Gustavsson said. “We know what type of team San Jose is, they’re really good. Of course Ellen (Nystrom) and I, and Stine (Austgulen) remember our sophomore year. But we’re a different team and we just stayed locked in and just focused.”

Gustavsson scored 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor. The senior forward also collected 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. Gustavsson was particularly effective in the first half, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the opening 20 minutes on 7-of-14 shooting. Gustavsson’s 26-point outing also ties Khadijah Shumpert’s record for most points in the Mountain West quarterfinals.

Nystrom scored only four points with seven rebounds in the first half while only attempting two shots. The Mountain West Player of the Year got going, however, when the Rams needed her to and played a major role in fending off San Jose State’s comeback attempt. Nystrom finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. The double-double was Nystrom’s 10th of the season, ranking third in the Mountain West.

“Coach told me to be aggressive,” Nystrom said. “I think our poise was good as a team. Our defense was really good and our rebounding. I think we got a taste of what the tournament is like.”

Colorado State will play Boise State in the semifinals on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. MT. The Broncos handed CSU one of its three conference losses this season on Dec. 31.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz