Red-hot CSU women roll into Wyoming for Border War rematch

Christian Hedrick

Fresh off a perfect home stand, the Colorado State women’s basketball team (14-7, 6-4 Mountain West) will look to take their winning ways on the road for a rematch against the league-leading Cowgirls (14-5, 7-1 MW) on Wednesday night in Laramie.

a player spread her arms to defend a pass
Hannah Tvrdy defends a pass during the Border War game at Moby Arena on Jan. 13. The Rams fell to the Cowgirls 53-49. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

As teams jockey for position in the competitive conference standings, every game is significant, but there’s always a little extra on the line when Rams and Cowgirls collide.

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“It’s a Border War game and we take great pride in trying to win that basketball game,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said. “So yeah, this has got a little more bold to it on the schedule, perhaps.”

In the first installment of the Border War on Jan. 20, the Cowgirls narrowly escaped Moby Arena with a 53-49 victory. With just 14 first-half points, the Rams trailed by as many as 10 in the second half, but cut the deficit to one with under two minutes remaining.

A consistent defensive effort kept the Rams within striking distance late, but uncharacteristic fouls down the stretch cost CSU any chance of conjuring up a comeback on their home court.

Using their first meeting as a template, Williams knows where his team needs to improve in order to take down the Cowgirls.

“I think we need to score the ball better,” Williams said. “The ball has got to move, our bodies have got to move, and we have to play with a different mentality offensively. That’s the adjustment. We have to go up there and just play.”

Since the two sides faced off in Fort Collins earlier this month, Wyoming has rattled off three straight wins to move into first in the conference standings. Leading the Cowgirls’ climb up the conference has been senior Liv Roberts and sophomore Taylor Rusk.

Roberts, a preseason all-conference selection at the guard position, has paced the Cowgirls offensively with 13.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Behind Roberts sits Rusk averaging just over nine points and six rebounds through 19 games in her second collegiate season.

Though the Rams were able to limit the Cowgirls’ leading scorers to just four points apiece when they first faced off, Williams knows matching up against Wyoming will be a challenge, no matter who steps up.

“We need to guard them well and they’re a difficult team to defend,” Williams said. “They run a lot of good stuff, but we have to score the ball.”

Neither Roberts nor Rusk’s offensive statistics jump off the page when compared to the rest of the league leaders, yet the Cowgirls are alone atop the conference standings thanks to a stellar defense.

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No MW team has allowed fewer points this season than Wyoming’s 54.7 per game average, with CSU trailing by less than half a point. Despite ranking last in blocked shots and steals per game, Wyoming has made life hard on the opposition by allowing just 32.6 rebounds per game and only 38 percent of opponents’ shots to drop from the field.

The stingy Cowgirl defense will likely be focused on CSU seniors Veronika Morkovic and reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week Hannah Tvrdy. After an up-and-down start to the conference slate, the pair enter Wednesday’s contest playing arguably the best basketball of their careers.

Last Saturday, Tvrdy posted 16 points, nine boards and a game wining 3-pointer in overtime to take down New Mexico. In that same game, Mirkovic put together her first career double-double stat line, thanks to a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The senior duo will roll into Wednesday’s rivalry matchup red-hot, but without the support of the Moby Arena faithful. The Rams are 2-2 on the road in league play, but Williams knows nothing has come easy away from Moby.  

“The road seems really difficult this year in the league,” Williams said. “I don’t think there’s an easy place to play in the league right now, so I think doing what you do is have a fighting mentality, limit mistakes and limit turnovers. That’s how you’ve got to win on the road.” 

If the Rams execute the game plan and pull out the win on Wednesday, it would be Williams’ program-record 130th win as CSU head coach.

Williams and the Rams left for Wyoming Tuesday night to prepare for the 6:30 P.M. matchup in Laramie. 

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