Be sure to watch these storylines as the year paces on for the Rams

Luke Zahlmann

If one phrase has headlined the postgame soliloquies of Colorado State women’s coach Ryun Williams, ‘we gotta hit shots,’ reigns victorious.

A focus hasn’t been put on defense, an area where the Rams have followed their prototypical conference-best ways. Nor have the sights been set on reducing turnovers, an area the team has been second-best in.

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Finding open shots and proceeding to make those attempts has been a facet that has often eluded the Rams.

Their inability to convert in the face of minimal pressure is just one area among many to watch as the season progresses.

Knockin down the gimmes

As previously mentioned, the Rams have struggled to sink their easiest shots.

Though the Rams have not been the worst in the conference, their 38.2-percent mark from the field has seldom impressed.

The Rams’ Border War rival, Wyoming, has shot a conference-best 46.4 percent on the year. For comparison, Williams’ squad has eclipsed that tally in only a pair of games. Both were wins over Denver and Chadron State and the two highest-scoring games of the year for the team. 

Of the 10 lowest-efficiency games for the Rams, eight were losses and six were by double figures.

With their defense already established, the team refining their ability to nail open shots will be a catalyst for their success moving forward. Missing 11 layups, similar to their most recent loss, will seldom yield positive results.

Establishment of a consistent facilitating force

Hannah Tvrdy graduated. Roichelle Marble, one of the team’s seven new players, went down with an injury prior to the year even beginning.

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Now, with Grace Colaivalu putting forth her best effort, the team is still searching for consistency from their point guards.

Colaivalu, once the team’s proverbial sparkplug, has taken on a larger role this year. In her newfound guise, the guard has shown both the peaks and valleys of her game. 

Grace Colaivalu (#23) pushes through Cornell players during the game on Nov. 25. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

In a pair of respective games, Colaivalu has scored more than 15 points. In five others, the team’s leading ball handler has dished seven or more assists.

Among games where Colaivalu has posted more assists than turnovers, the team has five of their seven wins, highlighted by her season-high 12-assist outburst in the team’s win over Chadron State.

Outside of Colaivalu, the team has fielded Mollie Mounsey, Lore Devos and Lauren Brocke among others to handle the ball. While each have shown flashes of their own, the former has found her footing far more often.

If she is unable to find a groove as the year progresses, Williams may look elsewhere. Either way, the team needs a steadying force along the lines of the departed Tvrdy.

‘McBuckets’ finding the bottom of the net

The buzz around Mounsey following her transfer from Seward County Community College had Williams feeling jittery.

In his new sharpshooter, Williams had added a player that led the entire nation her freshman year, regardless of the division, in 3-point field goals.

Prior to her arrival, Williams laid out a laundry list of benefits from Mounsey’s addition.

“Mollie can flat out shoot it. Her ability to stretch the defense from the three-point line is tremendous, and she’s also a very tough and competitive young lady with a great basketball mind,” Williams said. “She’ll be joining us from one of the best junior college programs and coaches in the country, and will definitely add to our CSU winning culture.”

Following a 21-point average in her two exhibition games, that excitement elevated several notches. Once the regular season began, so too did the struggles. 

Fresno State’s Candice White boxes out a free-throw shot from Mollie Mounsey during the Rams’ game against Fresno State Jan. 5. Despite a late comeback effort the Rams fell to the Bulldogs 66-55. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

In four of her first six games, Mounsey tallied single-digit scoring totals, shooting below 30 percent in each. In the last teams’ last two games, Mounsey has scored four points apiece and gone 1-of-10 from outside.

Intertwined between her lulls have been two 21-point games, an 18-point contest and a 19-point total. The team has gone 2-2 in the four.

The team has utilized ball screens and off-ball action throughout the year to get Mounsey open. The problem for the team’s outside force has been the aforementioned lack of success on open 3’s.

If Mounsey finds her way more consistently, Moby Madness is likely to follow for Rams’ faithful.

Who’s going to elevate their game?

One game it was Devos, another it was Mounsey. Colaivalu was the third of the team to accumulate 20 or more points in a game.

All three have had their moments, with other players shining in spots as well. The problem for the Rams is outside of Mounsey and Devos, those breakouts have been infrequent.

As the only two players on the team averaging double-digit scoring, the Rams’ leaders have done their part. Adding a third, in turn creating a three-headed attack for the offense would be a boon to the teams’ success.

The likely culprit: Brocke. 

Women preparing to shoot in a basketball game
Lauren Brocke prepares to shoot against NAU on December 5, 2018. (Alyse Oxenford | Collegian)

Though Colaivalu will continue to harness many of the team’s assist opportunities, Brocke has the ability to break out in the final stages of the year.

With a game-winning 3-pointer under her belt already, the redshirt freshman from Boise, Idaho has shown glimpses of an impact performer.

Her teammates have shown the support for her rise after her shot to beat UNLV.

“My teammates have so much confidence in me,” Brocke said. “My coaches have just been telling me ‘when your time comes, get ready to knock down those shots.’”

As her minutes eclipse the 20-per-game mark and she gains comfort on the floor, Brocke has the ability to get hot from outside and handle the ball in spurts as well.

After losing Elin Gustavsson, Ellen Nystrom and Tvrdy in recent years, the development of the new big three under Williams will be pivotal.

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