Tvrdy’s late 3 lifts CSU to overtime victory against New Mexico

Christian Hedrick

In a battle between New Mexico’s league-leading offense and Colorado State’s league-leading defense, the Colorado State women’s basketball team (14-7, 6-4 Mountain West) proved they could produce on both ends of court, defeating the Lobos (16-6, 4-5 MW) by a score of 74-71 in thrilling fashion at Moby Arena Saturday afternoon.

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Coming off their most efficient offensive outing in league play, the Rams picked up where they left off on Saturday afternoon with a 23-point opening quarter.

Debuting their state-pride themed uniforms, three different Rams converted from deep in the opening frame, beginning with Veronika Mirkovic on CSU’s initial offensive possession and capped off by Stine Austgulen’s team leading 49th 3-ball just before the buzzer.

23 points marks the Rams’ highest scoring opening quarter through 20 games.

“Our confidence level has gone up, our mindset has changed, we’re being more aggressive,” CSU redshirt senior guard Hannah Tvrdy said. “That’s what we need and it’s helping our scoring a ton too.”

After firing on all cylinders to open Saturday’s contest, the Rams managed just six second-quarter points. In the second quarter, CSU shot a mere 3-14 as a team and went 0-4 from deep after converting on three of four 3-point attempts in the first.

With 4:30 to play in the second, a Callie Kaiser jump shot knotted the game at 29, but the Rams finished the rest of the half fruitless from the field. Led by preseason all-conference selection Cherise Beynon’s eight second quarter points, the Lobos built a four-point advantage heading into the break.

Following a scoreless half for CSU leading scorer Grace Colaivalu, the redshirt freshman snapped the Rams’ scoring draught at just over 5:30 minutes with her first points of the game on a triple. The Rams fell behind by as many as eight points in the third quarter, but a go-ahead layup by Mirkovic put the Rams up by two heading into the fourth.

Mirkovic finished Saturday’s game with a career-high 15 points, to go along with 10 boards.

The Rams opened the final frame dominant defensively, holding the Lobos without a score through the first two minutes. While stifling on defense, the Rams extended their fourth-quarter lead to six points, the largest lead they’d enjoy for the rest of the game.

Clinging to a two-point lead with less than 3 minutes remaining, the Rams and Lobos exchanged buckets until a Colaivalu jumper fell short. New Mexico guard Beynon took the ensuing Lobo possession to the top of the key and drilled her team leading 30th point from 3-land to put New Mexico up by a score.

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Colaivalu marched back down the floor and responded with a highly contested layup, while drawing Beynon’s fifth personal foul. Despite losing their leading scorer to fouls, Lobo guard Jaisa Nunn evened the score at 67 with a second-chance tip-in with four seconds left in regulation. Following a Tryggedsson miss at the buzzer, the Rams and Lobos headed to a five-minute overtime period.

In overtime, the Lobos jumped out to an early four-point edge. With leading scorer Beynon the bench, the Rams held the Lobos scoreless in the final 3:30 minutes of overtime and clawed back to tie the game at 71 with 1 minute remaining.

“We knew we’re coming back,” Mirkovic said. “We didn’t get discouraged when they scored, we just knew we needed to get a stop.”

After a Mirkovic defensive board set the Rams up in the Lobo end with 26 ticks remaining, Colaivalu found Tvrdy with a look from deep and the redshirt senior hit nothing but net, sending Moby Arena to a frenzy.

“I literally didn’t think, I just shot it,” Tvrdy said.

The Lobos got two more looks on the ensuing possession, but the Rams’ defense stayed in check to seal the 74-71 win.

We’ve been in a lot of close games. This should just feed the belief that we can do this.

-Ryun Williams, head coach

“We’ve been in a lot of close games,” Williams said. “This should just feed the belief that we can do this.”

The win moves CSU head coach Ryun Williams into a tie with Tom Collen for the program’s all-time wins record at 129. Despite the personal milestone, Williams is focused on what the win means for his team moving forward.

“It (The record) don’t mean squat to me,” Williams said. “What matters to me is we got this win today and we have to go to Laramie on Wednesday.”    

The Rams head up to Wyoming for a midweek rematch with the Cowgirls beginning at 6:30 P.M. on Wednesday. 

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