Rams post their season-best effort in win over Denver

Luke Zahlmann

Coming into the matchup, Colorado State and the University of Denver were polar opposites.

Sitting at 18th in the nation in scoring per game (82.8), the Pioneers put forth a contradictory style to that of the Rams who sat at the bottom of the Mountain West in scoring (51.2).

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The over 30-point discrepancy in averages turned into a single-digit margin in the Rams’ favor at Moby Arena on Friday, producing the teams’ sixth-straight win over their in-state foe, 84-79.

“This is no blip on the radar,” Coach Ryun Williams said. “I’m sure (Denver) was favored. The way (they’ve been) scoring it, their numbers compared to our numbers, this was a huge win, we’re treating it as a huge win.” 

After a shootout against Brigham Young in which Mollie Mounsey and Shaylee Gonzales exchanged buckets, the team faced a similar situation in their latest matchup.

In the first frame alone, led by Mounsey, the offense posted 20 points, the most the team has scored in an opening frame all year.

Mounsey, just a game after recording the fourth-most 3-point makes in a single game in program history (seven), started hot again. In the 20-point effort, Mounsey accounted for eight, six of which came from outside the arc. 

CSU players sprint on a fastbreak
Mollie Mounsey(24) sprints down the court on a fastbreak during CSU’s home game vs Eastern NM on November 6th 2018. The Rams win 72-46.(Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

“I feel really good,” Mounsey said. “I went into a slump, but every shooter has (slumps). I feel like (as a team) we’re all connecting right now, every day we just keep getting better.”

The problem for the team, despite their hot start, was the defense on the Pioneers’ second-leading scorer, Lauren Loven. Despite the visitors’ lack of efficiency from the floor, Loven enjoyed individual success.

Averaging 15.3 points per game entering the game, Loven put up her average in less than one half, posting 21 of the teams’ first 30 points. In her hot start, the guard sunk seven 3-point attempts at a 7-11 mark from outside accounting for all of her double-digit scoring.  

At the half, Mounsey trailed Loven 21-16 in scoring, so, too did the Rams, trailing the visitors 47-41. The 41-point effort in the half was once again a season-high for the Rams, the catalyst being a 50-percent mark from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

We could go stand (Mollie) by the popcorn machine and they’re gonna probably guard her. It allows (us) to play four on four and creates better spacing.Ryun Williams

In the second half, the onus was passed to teammate Lore Devos as the Rams’ leading scorer this season shouldered the scoring load. After accumulating 10 points in the first two frames, Devos posted nine points in the third quarter alone.

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“When they stay on (Mollie), I really get to drive to the basket,” Devos said. “And if they come off her, I just pass it and she scores it anyways.”

Late in the same quarter, Mounsey stepped on a defenders foot in a scrum for the ball, falling to the court and hobbling off less than a minute before the period’s conclusion.

Despite trailing for 24 minutes leading up to the final quarter, the Rams took a one-point advantage into the final 10 minutes. The team also held Loven without a single point in the entire second half.

“We changed,” Williams said. “We changed a lot of times during (the) game. At the end, the thing that worked was (going) back to day one, basic zone principles that we teach. We just simplified what we were doing.”

Along with defensive changes, the Rams enforced a driving style from guard Grace Colaivalu that limited Loven to only 25 minutes due to foul trouble. Colaivalu finished with 17 points, her highest tally of the year. 

After missing a mere minute span, Mounsey reentered the game. Though she scored only once the rest of the game, her presence was felt.

“Even if (Mollie) is not attempting a shot… they’re gonna guard her wherever,” Williams said. “We could go stand her by the popcorn machine and they’re gonna probably guard her. It allows (us) to play four on four and creates better spacing.”  

In the second half, the Rams outscored the Pioneers by 11 points, taking the lead for the much of the final 10 minutes. 

Colaivalu, Mounsey and Devos all scored in double figures en route to the teams’ highest scoring output of the entire season. 

The Rams will have eight days to prepare for Chadron State Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. The Eagles will enter Moby on the heels of a 10-game losing streak. 

“(We’re) going into the break with good confidence,” Williams said. “The fact that the kids got to see the ball go in the basket today and got some nice flow… We’re gonna go into the break feeling like we are getting better as a basketball team.” 

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