Fickle-shooting Rams fall to Fresno State on the road

Christian Hedrick

Tvrdy dribbles with left hand
Hannah Tvrdy (10) pushes through the Boise State defense during the game on Dec. 28. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

The Colorado State women’s basketball team struggled to get anything to drop from the field in 56-45 defeat at the hands of Fresno State Saturday afternoon in Fresno, California.

The Rams (10-5, 2-2 MW) finished the afternoon just 30.8 percent from the field, but opened Saturday’s contest poised for their third consecutive Mountain West win. Following a 29-point performance versus San Diego State, Rams’ leading scorer Grace Colaivalu sparked the CSU offense with eight of the team’s first 10 points at the Save Mart Center.

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Aside from Colaivalu, though, the Rams struggled to knock down anything from the field in the first quarter. On the other end of the court, CSU’s man-to-man defensive front helped the visitors secure a three-point lead after the opening quarter.

The Rams never trailed in the first quarter, but quickly found themselves behind a score after Fresno State (8-7, 3-1 MW) guard Candace White sunk her 64th and 65th consecutive free throws. Sophomore guard Nathalie Linden put the Rams back in front by three at the four-minute mark of the second, but that’s all the offense CSU could muster for the remainder of the half.

While the Rams struggled to produce anything against FSU’s zone defense, the Bulldogs couldn’t get a shot to drop and the score sat at 22-22 for the final 4:22 of the half. CSU finished the first half 3-for-16 from 3-point range.

“We got a lot of good looks at the 3-ball, but quite frankly we shot way too many of them,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said in a statement. “If you’re having a bad shooting night, let’s figure out a different way to score.”

Despite the slow start offensively, CSU’s defense kept the Rams within striking distance through halftime.

“Our defense was outstanding all night,” Williams said. “White is an outstanding player, but you go on the road and hold somebody to 22 points at half, you’re doing something right.”  

The Bulldogs snapped their scoring drought within the first minute of the third quarter, but the Rams went over eight minutes before Stine Austgulen broke the spell with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 25-25.

Sitting on just eight first quarter points, Colaivalu rolled in her first points in over fifteen minutes with a layup at the three-minute mark of the third. The Sacramento native went on to produce 10 of the Rams’ 15 points in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs carried a five-point advantage into the final frame, but CSU’s shooting woes prevented the Rams from threatening that lead any further. Coming into Saturday afternoon’s showdown, Austgulen ranked seventh in the nation in 3-point shooting with a .492 mark, but only sunk 3-of-11 against FSU. Similarly, the oft-reliable guard Hannah Tvrdy went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc after a 3-for-3 showing in San Diego.    

While the Rams continued to misfire from beyond the arc in the final stanza, the Bulldogs extended their lead to double digits behind a 22-point, 11-rebound performance from White and a 13-point, 12-rebound outing from Aly Gamez. Gamez and White led a relentless effort in the paint that saw the Bulldogs out-rebound the Rams by a 42-31 margin.

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Colaivalu looked set to surpass the 20-point threshold for the third time in as many conference games heading into the final quarter with 18 points, but couldn’t hit the bottom of the bucket. The Rams struggled to produce any secondary scoring in the fourth before the buzzer sounded on a 56-45 final score.

“We just got to have some other leadership on the floor besides Gracie,” Williams said. “Whether it be making decisions or shot-making, there has got to be more production from other kids.”

The Rams return to Moby Arena for a Jan. 10 matchup with Utah State at 7:00 p.m.

Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.