Women’s basketball hits the road for Fresno State matchup

Ryan Loberger

Winner of six straight games, the Fresno State women’s basketball team has been the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference this year. The Rams will get their first crack at the Bulldogs’ undefeated conference record (7-0) this Wednesday as they head to Fresno, California. After the Rams’ 60-40 win against rival Air Force, here are three things they need to do to ensure they return to Fort Collins with a win over the top team in the conference. 

Women's basketball game
Colorado State University’s Annie Brady (32) takes a shot during the women’s basketball game against Northern Illinois University at Moby Arena on Nov. 17, 2019. The Rams fell to the Huskies in overtime 80-75. (Skyler Pradhan | The Collegian)

No quarters off

Slow starts to the second half of play have haunted the Rams in recent games. Against San Jose State, the Rams relinquished a nine-point lead coming out of halftime, letting the Spartans back into the game, which SJSU eventually won 58-53.

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A similar narrative followed in the Rams’ next contest against New Mexico. The Rams held a single-point lead over the Lobos at half only to give up 26 points in the third quarter and suffer another loss. 

“We’re getting the looks; we’re getting shots,” head coach Ryun Williams said following the win against Air Force. “We’ve just got to come out with a bit more pop (in the third quarter).”

The Rams have been one of the best defensive teams in the conference this season, holding their opposition to an average of 59.4 points per game. They’re tied with University of Nevada, Las Vegas for best in the MW. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have the highest-scoring offense at 78.2 points per game: a mark they’ve surpassed in five of their last six games.

Colorado State held a talented SJSU team that currently sits second in the Mountain West to 58 points. Expect them to come out strong in the first and third quarters to help set the tone for the matchup against Fresno.

Success from the 3-point line 

The Rams are in the top five in the conference in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage. Jamie Bonnarens, Tori Williams and Megan Jacobs have carried the team from beyond the arc. The trio has accounted for 65% of the Rams’ 3-pointers, sinking 93 of the team’s 142. 

Women playing basketball
Colorado State University’s Megan Jacobs (3) dribbles past an opponent at the game against Mississippi Valley State University on Dec. 14, 2019. The Rams took the win home 65-46. (Skyler Pradhan | The Collegian)

Three-point shooting will be critical for the Rams against a high-scoring team. Fresno doesn’t turn the ball over often. The Rams will need to apply pressure on the defense to try and disrupt the Bulldogs.

If CSU can get rolling from the 3-point line, they will have a chance to manage the game and try to prevent a shootout with the Bulldogs.

Limiting Fresno’s Maddi Utti

For the second straight week, the Mountain West announced that Bulldogs forward Maddi Utti was the conference’s player of the week. The junior has posted a double-double in each of her last four games, including a 28 point, 17 rebound performance in an overtime comeback win against New Mexico on Jan. 8. Utti also reached the 1,000 career point milestone in the Bulldogs’ 89-59 win over Wyoming on Saturday.

An impactful all-around player, Utti will test the Rams on both sides of the ball. She leads the Bulldogs in points, rebounds and steals.

Last season as a sophomore, Utti was the only player in the MW Conference to rank in the top 10 in the league in rebounds, steals and blocks, earning her a spot on the 2019 All-Mountain Defensive Team.

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Limiting the Bulldogs’ top player will be no easy task, but for CSU to leave with a win, the Rams can’t allow Utti to take over the game. 

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 22. 

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@colegian.com or on Twitter @Lobergerryan.