Turnovers, tepid offense plague CSU in 56-52 loss at UNLV

Christian Hedrick

a player runs toward the hoop
Stine Austgulen sprints around a Wyoming player during the Border War game at Moby Arena on Jan. 13. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The Colorado State women’s basketball team could not overcome its offensive woes, both early and late, to put away the red-hot UNLV Lady Rebels in a 56-52 defeat in Las Vegas.

Though the Rams entered Saturday’s contest boasting the sixth best opponent field goal percentage in the nation, the Lady Rebels converted on five of their first eight attempts to go up 11-2 early. Using patient passing along the perimeter, UNLV picked apart CSU’s 2-3 defensive zone to take a 20-7 lead after the first frame.

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“They’re (UNLV) going to make some shots,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said in a statement. “They seemed to make them in bunches there at the beginning.”

While the Lady Rebels went 7-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from downtown in the first quarter, the Rams struggled to get anything to drop with just a 3-for-11 mark from the field. Before another stagnant shooting performance could seal CSU’s fate on the road, the Rams regained an offensive rhythm in the second quarter.

With seven minutes remaining in the half, redshirt senior Stine Austgulen nailed the Rams’ first 3-pointer from her familiar far corner to make it a single-digit ballgame. UNLV then tallied their first points in over five minutes to push the lead back to 12, but CSU guard Sofie Tryggedsson knocked down back-to-back 3s to keep the Rams within striking distance.

While CSU’s defense continued to lock down the ice-cold Lady Rebels, Austgulen matched Tryggedsson’s production with a pair of 3s of her own, knotting the game at 26 before the break. UNLV finished the second quarter with just six points.

“I thought we showed a lot resolve throughout that whole basketball game,” Williams said. “Defensively, again, another outstanding effort.”

UNLV guard Nikki Whitley ended the Rams’ run at 12 with a triple on the first possession of the third quarter. Whitley and the Lady Rebels extended their lead to eight points, but the sharpshooting duo of Tryggedsson and Austgulen quickly pulled the Rams to within one score with five minutes remaining in the quarter.

CSU leading scorer Grace Colaivalu flashed her ability to play both ends of the court by turning over UNLV’s Brooke Johnson and driving the ball the length of the floor. Though Colaivalu’s fast break basket gave the Rams their first advantage of the night, the redshirt freshman’s production was limited by foul trouble and an eventual disqualification with one minute remaining.

Though the Mountain West’s most tepid offense in league play outscored the sharpshooting Rebels 34-21 in the middle two quarters, the shooting woes and turnovers that plagued the Rams at the beginning of the evening crept back into CSU’s game for the final frame.

Following a fruitless first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Annie Brady netted the Rams next six points. Brady finished the night with 11 of the Rams’ 13 points off the bench. With the game now tied at 47 following a Brady jump shot, Tryggedsson found the bottom of the bucket with her fourth made 3-pointer of the evening.

The shot put the Rams up by three with just over three minutes to play, but that’s all the Rams’ offense could muster until the game was out of reach with four ticks on the clock.

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“We had a lead there with two and half to go,” Williams said. “You need to finish. We had enough stop. You need to continue to score the ball, or get to the foul line, and we surely didn’t do that.”

UNLV leading scorer Katie Powell took advantage of a pair of Tryggedsson turnovers on back-to-back CSU possessions to put the Lady Rebels up by one with her 18th point of the game. With 36 seconds remaining and redshirt freshman Jordyn Edwards subbed in for the fouled-out Colaivalu, the Rams came up with a key stop and a chance to take the lead.

Trailing by one point with the ball in the offensive end thanks to a CSU timeout, Edwards couldn’t set up the Rams’ offense after the inbound and fumbled the ball into the backcourt.

“We’re just inexperienced with the ball,” Williams said. “If anything, we probably should have had the ball in Tvrdy’s hands late just because she’s a senior and could have had a little better matchup. But if you’re a point guard, get us in our stuff please.”  

The Rams hoped for a miracle comeback by fouling the Lady Rebels on their ensuing possessions, but Johnson went a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final minute to seal a 56-52 win.

CSU returns to the Moby Arena hardwood for 7 p.m. showdown with San Diego State on Wednesday. 

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