CSU plotting for payback in first round against Fresno State

Christian Hedrick

The Colorado State women’s basketball team will open the 2018 Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship looking for vengeance in its first round matchup against Fresno State.

The Bulldogs won both meetings between the two sides in the regular season, but not by wide margins.

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“They beat us twice,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “We’ve had two really close games. We need to minimize our mistakes we made the first couple games, which we should, and make some shots.”

A player sprints around a defender.
Hannah Tvrdy makes a move aroud a Fresno State defender during the pink out game on Feb. 17. The Rams fells to the Bulldgos 75-64 in overtime. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Before mistakes hampered the Rams in Fresno, CSU redshirt freshman Grace Colaivalu put the Rams in front with eight first-quarter points. CSU carried the lead late into the second quarter, but a 30 percent mark from the field opened the door for FSU guard Candace White and the Bulldogs to pull away in the second half with a 56-45 win.

The Rams got another crack at the Bulldogs on Feb. 17, but a similar pattern of sloppy shooting sealed their fate once again. This time on their home floor, the Rams overcame a 27 percent first-half field goal percentage to send the game to overtime on a Colaivalu layup with one second remaining in regulation time.  

Though CSU battled to send the game to an extra frame, the Rams once again had no answer for White who capped off a 29-point night with 12 points in overtime on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from deep. Meanwhile, CSU’s shooting woes carried into overtime where the home team went just 2-for-8, sealing the 75-64 defeat.

“We shot it poor, horrible the first two times we played them,” Williams said. “I mean absolutely horrible. I don’t think we’ll do that again and I think we can put ourselves in position to get a good first-round win.”

To turn the tide from the first two matchups, the Rams will need to neutralize White with more production from their leading scorer, Hannah Tvrdy. With just four points on 2-for-16 shooting, Tvrdy accounted for much of the Rams’ shooting woes in the rematch at Moby Arena. Since that sorry Saturday afternoon, though, the senior posted an average of 18.3 points in the three games since.

Despite her sudden surge, the Rams may be overlooked in the first round with a pair of losses to Fresno State earlier in the season. The underdog role might dismay some, but Tvrdy is poised to prove what her and the Rams can do with the odds stacked against them.

“All the games we’re going to play people are like, ‘Oh, they’re not expected to win,'” Tvrdy said. “So honestly, for me as a competitor, that just makes it even more fun to be like, ‘Okay, we’re not expected to win this game, so let’s just go win it.’ I’m just really excited to see what we can do.”

As winners of four consecutive Mountain West regular season titles, being the underdog is unfamiliar territory for CSU in the conference tournament. Despite their new role as the fifth seed, the Rams have felt like the underdog all season long and will be even more motivated to prove doubters wrong at the year-end tournament.

“I remember we got ranked third in the preseason rankings and I remember that hurt,” guard Sofie Tryggedsson said. “I was offended by that. Us finishing fifth (in the regular season), that just means that we have so much more to prove because I believe that we should be finishing at the top of this conference.”

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A fifth-place finish is not ideal for a team with standards as high as CSU’s, but by improving throughout the season, the Rams believe they are a stronger team than their seeding suggests.

“I think we have developed so much throughout the season that we can beat any team and we should really win the conference,” Tryggedsson said.

The Rams and Bulldogs face off in the first round of the conference tournament on Tuesday, March 6 beginning at 2:30 p.m. PT from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

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