Boise State shoots past CSU to earn berth in Mountain West title game

Austin White

LAS VEGAS – Senior leadership for a collegiate team always gives a team an advantage when it comes to tournament time. Having players with experience in the toughest situations to help calm the team does not have a numerical value.

All season, Colorado State relied on its seniors to help lead a team looking to leave their own mark and emerge from the shadow of the Rams’ most prolific duo in program history.

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But basketball is ultimately a team sport and it takes more than just one player to pull off a big upset. For the second straight year, the Mountain West co-champion Boise State Broncos eliminated the Rams, this time by a score of 76-51, the most points the Rams allowed to a conference opponent all year.

“We picked a tough night to have a tough night,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “Boise had a lot to do with that. They are playing well, Boise was great tonight.”

Defense for both sides looked to be impenetrable early with only eight points for the Broncos and 12 for the Rams after one quarter. However, the defense for CSU could not keep up starting in the second quarter.

The Broncos piled on 27 points behind three made 3-pointers and going 11-for-15 overall from the field in the stanza. Meanwhile, CSU stayed at the same pace on offense, scoring only 13. Tvrdy kept the Rams within reach by notching 14 of her points in the half, including three triples, but could not reproduce that in the second half with only four points.

“Boise State is an amazing defensive team, so I knew they would really be taking away my drive too, which they were,” Tvrdy said. “I was just really looking for the three and it was falling the first half so I just kept going with it.”

CSU entered the matchup ranking in the top in the nation in field goal percentage allowed at 34.1 percent while BSU topped the Mountain West in shooting with 42.9 percent. Defense is said to win championships, but that did not hold for CSU. The Broncos finished shooting 51.7 percent from the field thanks to their 42 points in the paint.

“They went small and when they went small that posed some problems,” Williams said. “We tried to match them and that’s maybe not our best defensive team when we go small as well. Like Tvrdy said, we made some mistakes that we just normally don’t make.”

“We got a lot of transition opportunities,” Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell said. “We got a lot of post penetration through Shay (Shalen Shaw) and that created some opportunities in the paint.”

What helped the Rams take their first round matchup with Fresno State was the ability to hit their open 3-pointers and jump shots altogether. That same performance could not be repeated as Sofie Tryggedsson went 1-for-8 from deep and Stine Austgulen went 0-for-2.

“Some nights they go in more than others, but Boise did a good job on (Austgulen and Tryggedsson),” Williams said. “You saw some rushed shots, maybe not as in rhythm as we shot last night. Boise made us play that way.”

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On the opposite side, Braydey Hodgins shot through the outstretched arms of every Ram on her way to a game-high 25 points. She went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and 8-for-11 overall from the field.

“We were talking about Hodgins before the game a lot,” Austgulen said. “Really all their guards, they’re great, they all scored it a lot today.”

The only player who seemed to find it offensively was Tvrdy, who the Broncos focused on in the second half and held her scoreless in the third as they built their lead to 56-38 and all but put the game away.

CSU will lose Tvrdy, Austgulen and Veronika Mirkovic as the three seniors will be moving on from college basketball. Their impact on the program will remain and Williams will not forget their effort this season.

“I’m going to miss all my teammates, they’re great we always support each other,” Austgulen said about what she will miss. “And just playing basketball in Moby. It’s a fun arena to play in and all of our fans.”

“I don’t think we didn’t have success this year,” Tvrdy said with tears coming to her eyes. “Honestly this season taught me the most. I just think there was a lot of ups and downs this year but it taught me the most as a person.”

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44