Zahlmann: Rams lost two legends, but their season is alive and well

Luke Zahlmann

The loss of two star players, one a scorer and the other a do-it-all point guard, has had a profound impact on the CSU women’s basketball team.

In the past two seasons combined, the Rams lost a total of 11 games. Between the loses, the wins piled up to a pristine 56, a winning percentage over 80 percent.

Ad

the team huddles during a timeout
Head coach Ryun Williams rallies the team during a timeout in the last quarter of the Border War at Moby Arena on Jan. 13. The Rams fell to the Cowgirls 53-49. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

In the 2017-18 season, the Rams are more than halfway to the loss total of the past two seasons combined. The loss of their identity has sent them searching to find the team they want to be. A defensive stalwart? A fast pace offensive juggernaut? The answer is a mixture.

The Rams rank top 15 in the nation in turnovers per game, a sign of an offense unwilling to let mistakes sink them. Despite the absence of mistakes, their scoring is 266th in the nation in points, something expected to an extent given the loss of two of their primary scorers, but not to the extreme it currently resides.

On the other side, the Rams sit at seventh in the nation in opponents’ field goal percentage, a lockdown unit capable of keeping their opposition at bay, even when their offense hits a lull. Having only allowed a single opponent to cross the 80-point plateau, defense is another strong suit for a Rams unit searching for their way.

The complication for the Rams lies in an inability to turn their clean basketball into additional points. This would allow their defense to be an equal asset, not a crutch. Utilizing skills to their advantage is a trait that has eluded the young Rams squad through the first half of their schedule, a schedule that has recently entered the grueling phase of conference play.

Redshirt freshman Grace Colaivalu has been a spark plug for a team in need of a scoring boost. Despite playing little at the beginning of the year, Colaivalu is the only Ram that averages double-digit points a game, a sign that the team has switched to a group mentality in the scoring department.

Unfortunately, the new approach has left the offense searching for a punch, a sign of life in big moments.

The talent level on the Rams is an indicator that positive regression is in store for the rest of the season. A cold streak by senior Sofie Tryggedsson has dropped her scoring average to below five per game, a number that is sure to rise back up. Fellow senior Stine Austgulen has picked up the slack from outside the arc for the Rams, pushing her team-leading amount of 3-pointers to 41 on nearly 50 percent shooting, an outstanding tally.

A combination of fresh faces and battle-tested upperclassmen gives the Rams hope that the ceiling for their team is one that is currently miles from where they are. A change of momentum from Tryggedsson, steady hands of Colaivalu and Hannh Tvrdy and hot shooting of Austgulen could propel the Rams to another Mountain West title.

a player dribbles down the court
Grace Colaivalu sprints around a Wyoming player to take a shot during the Border War game on Jan. 13 at Moby Arena. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The remaining schedule for the Rams features multiple games against teams ahead of them in the Mountain West standings. Two games against New Mexico and a single game against each of the other three teams ahead of them can send the Rams skyrocketing to the top spot with a strong second half of the season.

An uptick in offense from the team will go a long way towards changing the tone of their season. A defense that is well adept at limiting their opponents’ made field goals will handle the other side of the court, while a number of cold hands getting hot will boost the mediocre scoring numbers.

Ad

In a game of runs, both for and against, the Rams have been starring down the barrel of far too many scoreless runs on offense. Austuglen and Tryggedsson can set the Rams up for success the remainder of the year and allow premier guards in Tvrdy and Colaivalu to have driving lanes and kick the ball out to their eagerly awaiting 3-point shooters.

With a confidence boost and a luck of the roll in down spurts offensively, the Rams are due for an uptick in success, and another championship to Moby Arena.

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