CSU bench boosts Rams to 61-50 victory over Air Force

Christian Hedrick

A busy night for Colorado State women’s basketball’s (17-7, 9-4 Mountain West) bench helped bury the Air Force Falcons (2-20, 2-9 MW) by a score of 61-50, extending the Rams’ win streak to five on Wednesday night at Moby Arena.

“28-0 on bench points,” CSU head coach Ryun Williams said. “That’s impressive. I’m really proud of our bench.”

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Before the CSU bench took over, the Rams and Falcons got off to a sloppy start, mirroring the messy meeting between these Front Range foes last month. In the first three minutes alone, the two sides racked up more fouls than buckets.

A CSU player watches the ball after her shot
Guard Jordyn Edwards watches as her shot goes through the basket during the fourth quarter during the game against the Air Force Falcons on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. During the game, CSU was able to maintain a 10-point lead over the Falcons since the first quarter. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

Red-hot redshirt senior Hannah Tvrdy entered Wednesday’s contest averaging 20.7 points and nine rebounds over the last four games. The veteran guard registered the game’s first points on a highly contested layup, but quickly played her way to the bench with a pair of fouls in the first four minutes.

As a team, the Rams’ five early fouls sent the Falcons to the charity stripe frequently, allowing Air Force to take an 8-6 lead at the midway point of the first frame.

“We don’t like to create offense for our opponent,” Williams said. “We always talk about unnecessary fouling and we had a lot of kids on that bench in the first half. Tvrdy lived on that bench and we had some kids in foul trouble.”

The Falcons held a lead until senior guard Stine Austgulen nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key on her first attempt. Austgulen’s bucket put the Rams in front 12-11 late in the first and CSU would not relinquish that lead for the rest of the night.

While the CSU offense continued to click into the second quarter, the Rams’ defense kept Air Force out of the bottom of the net for over eight minutes. An Annie Brady layup at the four-minute mark of the second quarter put the Rams up 16, but the Falcon duo of Emily Conroe and Kaelin Immel led Air Force on a 9-2 run to close out the half behind by nine.

Conroe and Immel’s 20 first-half points accounted for all of Air Force’s offense in the first 20 minutes.

“We know Immel and Conroe get a majority of their shots,” Williams said. “They run a lot of their actions through those kids. They’re really aggressive and I think we competed really well on those kids.”

Brady paced the Rams with 11 third-quarter points off the bench after posting just three in the first half. Brady capped off her third-period performance with a pair of free throws to give the Rams a 12-point advantage.

Although Brady’s biggest impact came on offense, the junior forward found her form on the glass.

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“I just get in there and rebound,” Brady said. “I think that’s what starts it off and the rest just follows from there.”  

Brady’s bucket put Rams up by a dozen with a quarter to play, but the feisty Falcons would not go down without a fight.  

“Air Force just wakes up feisty,” Williams said. “They’re a feisty team for 40 minutes. I think they’re always hard to compete against.”

The Falcons shutout CSU guard Jordyn Edwards in the fourth quarter after posting 10 points and two assists in the first three frames. Likewise, CSU’S dominant bench was held to just four points. Making up for the cold-shooting Rams, Tvrdy turned up for nine to give CSU some breathing room.

Though the Rams’ offense stalled in the fourth, sloppy defense kept the Falcons afloat late.

“We probably made more defensive mistakes in the second half than we did the last two games combined,” Williams said. “Just driving and splitting us and getting to the rim.”

Down by seven with a minute remaining, the Rams’ defense stepped up when it mattered most. A threat all night, Immel drove the lane into three defending Rams out of desperation, but couldn’t get a proper shot off and Rams secured their fifth consecutive win.

Despite the streak and looming conference tournament, CSU is keeping its focus on the task at hand.

“I know mentally we try not to think about it because it doesn’t really matter, but we’re just going to try and keep winning and focusing on the future games ahead,” Edwards said.

After the win, CSU Athletic Director Joe Parker honored Williams with a basketball commemorating his program-record 130 wins as CSU head coach.

Williams and the Rams head West for a Saturday afternoon showdown at San Jose State beginning at 3 p.m. MT. 

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