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Get ready for tipoff: CSU women’s basketball begins shortly

Colorado+State+University+basketball+guard%2C+McKenna+Hofschild+%284%29%2C+defends+the+ball+against+an+opponent+from+Boise+State+University+at+Moby+Arena+Feb.+28.+CSU+won+66-51.
Collegian | Reiley Costa
Colorado State University basketball guard McKenna Hofschild (4) defends the ball against an opponent from Boise State University at Moby Arena Feb. 28. CSU won 66-51.

The lights of Moby Arena shine bright, and not everyone who steps in is prepared.

With reigning Mountain West Player of the Year McKenna Hofschild at the helm, the Colorado State women’s basketball team is prepared to shine brighter than ever before. 

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After a devastating loss to conference rival Wyoming in the semifinals of the MW tournament last season, all eyes turned to how the Rams would prepare their squad to enter the 2023-24 season ready to take it all. 

It’s never been a question of who would lead the CSU squad going into the season. Hofschild, who led the team last season in scoring with 20.6 points per game — No. 17 in the nation — and assists with 7.2 per game — No. 5 in the nation — has been the core of the Rams offense since her transfer from Seton Hall in 2020. 

However, it isn’t just Hofschild’s offense that sets her apart. Coach Ryun Williams heavily praises her improvement on the defensive side of the ball, cementing the star as a near-unstoppable two-way threat. 

“That’s where McKenna has really improved,” Williams said. “She’s — I can’t believe I’m saying this — arguably our best on ball defender. Two years ago, (it) was like, ‘Do you even know what defense is, young lady?’ … I’m so proud of her for that growth. Her and (Isaiah Stevens) both have that rip-your-heart-out mentality.”

That consistent growth mindset exhibited by Hofschild isn’t solely hers. In fact, the mantra of small improvements every day has been echoed by Williams to the entire team as the season approaches. 

“Just small improvements every day,” Hofschild said when asked about Williams’ message to the team. “Try not to look too far ahead and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to get this done (and) this done, we’ve got to play this team at this state.’ … Take it one day at a time, one practice at a time and just make little improvements.”

The Rams are set to play their first regular-season match of the year Nov. 6 against Le Moyne College. The squad plays 29 games this regular season, 18 of which against conference opponents. 

While it may be too soon to start fantasizing about revenge, the team recognizes that they were unsatisfied with the result of last season, especially their loss to Wyoming in the MW semifinals. They plan to make things different this time. 

Colorado State is slated to take on the Cowgirls twice this season. First Jan. 20 in Laramie, Wyoming, then Feb. 17 in Moby Arena.

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“I know about the rivalry now; I understand it,” said Cailyn Crocker, who joined the team last season. “We got the game-winner here, we lost over there and we lost in the Mountain West (tournament), so we went 1-2 with them last year. We need to make that 2-0. … We’ve got to end that. (Playing against Wyoming) is always an exciting game. The feels are always great, the vibes are always great. I’m happy to see what they’re going to bring this year because we’re definitely going to bring it too.”

CSU lost five players during the offseason, including 2022 MW Newcomer of the Year Destiny Thurman, who was second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and led the team in steals with 41 on the season.

How do you replace a MW Newcomer of the Year? Well, you bring in another one.

Jackie Carman transferred to CSU from Wofford last April. The 5-foot-8-inch guard started all 32 games for the Terriers, ranking fifth in the Southern Conference in shooting with 15.1 points per game and leading her team in 3-pointers made with 66. Carman was named 2023 MW Preseason Newcomer of the Year in the preseason coaches poll

“She’s just been super quick on everything and able to pick up on a lot of things to where she’s just kind of flying on the offense and the defensive end,” Hofschild said. “She’s bringing a lot of experience, a lot of toughness (and a lot of) shotmaking.”

CSU’s second transfer after Carman was Sanna Ström, a junior from Kansas. Ström, a 6-foot guard, not only brings in collegiate experience but national experience as well. She competed for Sweden during the summer of 2022 in the FIBA U20 European Championships. Averaging 7.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, Ström and her team finished No. 11 overall.

“I think you’re going to see (something new) in Jackie Carman and Sanna Ström,” Williams said. “Those two kids will really impact our lineup. … They’re fun to watch. They play the game the right way. They play hard, they play with enthusiasm and (they celebrate). And so I think our fans are going to like that.”

In the MW preseason poll, Colorado State was predicted to finish second in the conference behind UNLV

The Rebels, led by star player and MW tournament MVP Desi-Rae Young, are the reigning champions of the conference, going undefeated 18-0 in the 2022-23 season conference play. The Rams were 0-2 against the team last season. However, due to both games being held within five points and CSU typically finding great defensive success against Young, holding her to just 11 and 13 points, Williams is hopeful that his squad can identify their mistakes from last season and get a better result this time around. 

“We’ve done a really good job from June to now of really focusing on what can get you in trouble,” Williams said. “Hopefully we improve on those and are even tougher to beat.”

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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