Offensive explosion leads to statement win for CSU women’s basketball

Luke Zahlmann

After abundant offensive struggles for the Colorado State women’s basketball team throughout the year, the cold streaks were a thing of the past Wednesday night as the Rams routed San Diego State 72-43 in Moby Arena.

Hannah Tvrdy runs around a screen on offense. Colorado State faced San Diego State Wednesday evening. (Erica Giesenhagen | Collegian)

The opening minutes of the first quarter were reminiscent of the entire year as the Rams’ (13-7, 5-4 Mountain West) offensive rhythm was virtually non-existent. The opening proved to be an anomaly, though, as the struggles gave way to an offensive explosion.

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After their first matchup of the year, the clear focus for the Rams was to limit Aztec (9-10, 3-5 MW) senior, McKynzie Fort. Following a 22-point performance in the first of their two matchups, Fort began the game hot, exploiting sloppy defense outside for the Rams and tallying five points in the opening period to go along with three rebounds.

A revival of tempo occurred late in the first quarter to steal the show for the Rams, highlighted by an and-one to end the quarter by senior Hannah Tvrdy. The three points were just a portion of her eight in the opening frame. Tvrdy also stood strong on the defensive end with two of the team’s four steals early.

“We always want to start on defense,” forward Veronika Mirkovic said. “We had a great plan.”

Trailing by a pair going into the second, the Rams continued their hot streak, changing a deficit to a lead quickly. A glimpse at the Rams’ lofty offensive potential was on full display in the first half following a slow start. Tvrdy finished the half as the leading scorer between the two teams with 10. Seven other Rams scored early and a 51.9 percent clip from the field helped lead them to a 35-29 advantage going into the locker room.

Further aiding the Rams’ effort was a clean-up of their mistakes from their past two games with only seven turnovers and one foul in the half. The stat proved to have inflated importance given the Aztecs’ nine turnovers and seven fouls.

The rejuvenation continued for the Rams coming out of the break, driving for two easy layups to begin the half. Proving to be only the opening chapter of the third quarter story, the Rams continued their run deep into the third, leaving the Moby faithful to “stand for D” the entirety of their 16-0 run.

“That third quarter was as good a quarter as we’ve had here,” coach Ryun Williams said. “That was a beautiful quarter of basketball. (As good as) any of our years here. It should just send a message to this team that we’ve got in in us.”

The overwhelming story of the game was Tvrdy who generated 28 points to go along with 10 boards and four steals, her first double-double of the year. Shattering her previous season high of 17 points, Tvrdy found her way inside early and often, nary an answer from the Aztecs.

“I think it’s just the mindset,” Tvrdy said. “They were guarding us out, extended, so if you just got by your man, it’s wide open. So that was kind of just my idea, I (thought), ‘If I get past my man, I should get to the rim.’”

A career night for Tvrdy began in pregame chat when the seniors of the Rams came together and shared a moment and stated that their careers had only so much remaining time. For the remainder of the season, they agreed that everything needed to be put on the line.

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A team only averaging 59.9 points per game coming into the contest, the Rams exceeded their average through just the first three quarters, tallying 65, moving the game to rout territory with a 27-point lead entering the fourth.  

With the game in hand, Williams was able to enter every available Ram into the game, giving his starters and regulars much needed rest. Only two players breached the 30-minute plateau. With a slow start to their offensive year, the Rams made a statement in the middle of their conference schedule, a trend Williams thinks can only go further.

“(This game) is a statement to ourselves, not really anybody else,” Williams said. “This is what our basketball team is capable of and the ball does go in the basket.”

Looking to keep their momentum going, the Rams will host New Mexico Saturday, a team that recently hung 89 points on the same Aztecs team. Two days of rest stand between the Rams and their 2 p.m. tip against the Lobos in Moby Arena.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.