Sizzling CSU women set for Saturday showdown with sinking SJSU

Christian Hedrick

Just three weeks ago, a mere game separated the Colorado State women’s basketball team and San Jose State in the tightly-packed Mountain West standings. Since then, one team has caught fire, while the other is reeling.

a player gets ready to run with the ball
Hannah Tvrdy makes a move around a University of New Mexico player during the State Pride game on Saturday, Jan. 27. The Rams beat the Lobos 74-71 in overtime. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

After an ugly loss at UNLV on Jan. 20, the Rams rattled off five consecutive wins. In that same timespan, the Spartans dropped five in a row. On paper, the Rams should be licking their chops at the prospect of facing off against the coldest team in the conference on Saturday, but that’s not even an option.

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“We never look at anyone’s record before we play them,” CSU guard Stine Austgulen said. “On the scouting report, it never says (their record). We just focus on the team and what we can do in order to win.”

Like every gameplan for Ryun Williams, the key to beating the Spartans begins on defense. Though SJSU has been cast to the bottom of the conference, only New Mexico and Boise State average more points per game than the Spartans’ 69.4.

“They’re physical, they play fast,” Austgulen said. “They have a lot of kids who can drive and shoot it, so I think we’ve got to be ready and play our best defense and offense in order to get a win.”

Among those who can do it all on offense for the Spartans are guards Myzhanique Ladd and Taylor Turney. The Spartan duo is among the league leaders in offensive efficiency, averaging over 12 points per game apiece.

When the Rams and Spartans met at Moby on Dec. 30, CSU limited SJSU’s high-octane offense to just 48 points, en route to 15-point victory. Ladd had herself a day with 16 points and 10 boards, but Turney posted just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Although the dynamic duo accounted for nearly half of the Spartans’ offense, it could have been a lot more if the Rams hadn’t been so frugal with trips to the free throw line. Of Ladd’s 268 total points, nearly a third come from the charity stripe, while over a quarter of Turner’s points are a product of free passes. Both Ladd and Turner rank among the top seven in the Mountain West in free throw shooting.

On Dec. 30, the Rams kept the free-throw phenosm fruitless by committing just nine fouls. A disciplined defense will be key again for the Rams to yield another positive result, especially against a dynamic offense like SJSU.

“A lot of them can shoot it and a lot of them can also drive too, so defense is going to be huge,” CSU redshirt senior Hannah Tvrdy said. “We need to get to the shooters, but also be in the gaps for each other if they drive.”

a player runs with the ball
Stine Austgulen moves the ball down the court during the State Pride game against University of New Mexico on Saturday, Jan. 27. The Rams beat the Lobos 74-71 in overtime. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

In their last outing versus Air Force, CSU committed an uncharacteristic 15 fouls, mainly on defense. A high mark like that may open the door for a Spartan upset, especially in a tough environment that SJSU presents.

“We just talked about it in the locker room today actually, San Jose’s really good at home, so I think it’s going to be tough to go in there, it’s always tough to go in there,” Austgulen said.

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Defending with discipline will make life tough for Spartan scorers on their home floor, but the Rams need to practice that same discipline on the offensive end in order to take home the win from enemy territory.

“At that place, you know they amp it up a lot, so taking care of the ball offensively and not letting them speed us up will be big, but also playing fast and with that right control too,” Tvrdy said.  

Though Tvrdy posted just five points in the first meeting with the Spartans, the senior guard has averaged 19.2 points and 8.4 boards her last five games and will likely be the focal point for the Spartans’ defense on Saturday.

Tvrdy and the Rams tip off from San Jose at 3 P.M. MT on Saturday afternoon.

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