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South Florida 48 – Colorado State 45

March 20, 2016

A near dream start (10-1) wasn’t enough as the Rams’ magical season came to an end at the hands of a future WNBA’er and a well-coached collection of players from South Florida.

USF’s Courtney Williams was the story of the game as she shot and shot and shot (29 times) and seemingly made and made and made (12 of them) from mostly  the 15-20′ range.  She went on to score 31 of the Bulls’ 48 points, a remarkable 65% of her teams total.  How outrageous was tht? When Wilt scored 100 in the NBA,even he didn’t account for 65% of his team’s points.

The Rams certainly compounded the issue by missing tons of point blank looks throughout the game.  Jamie Patrick had her usual shooting stroke from the perimeter  on her way to 17 points and Ell3n Nystrom had her usual rounded game with 12, 8, and 7.

But while they came up short, nothing can top the furious finish here Rams produced that nearly brought them back from a 12-point deficit with just over 6 minutes to go.  It may have fallen short on the scoreboard but it displayed the essence of this particular team.

The essence of a team that came into the game at 31-1 and riding a 28-game winning streak. That didn’t happen by accident and the Rams were playing like they were convinced they were about to overcome a 46-34 deficit on this evening.

Hannah Tvdry took over the defensive assignment on Williams and held her to one FG, the Bulls’ only points in the final 6+ minutes.  Ellen Nystrom scored a few pull-ups, Patrick nailed a 3-ball, and when Tvrdy did the same the Rams had gotten the deficit down to 3. Another stop, and a chance to tie.

The first good look fell to Elie Gustavsson on the perimeter. The same Elie Gustavsson who was making nearly everything a week prior in the MWC Tourney on her way to tourney MVP Honors. She missed.

A miss on the other end but an offensive rebound gave USF along possession in the final minute. With their season on the line, the Rams defended vigorously for nearly a minute and were rewarded with the ball with plenty of time to tie the game.

The crowd rose as one as the Rams created an open look for Patrick,the top perimeter shooter in the MWC.  Her shot was true to the line but short and glanced off the rim (after the game, she told me she might have hurried it a little). USF grabbed the board and CSU fouled.  USF inbounded the ball and CSU fouled. And then CSU fouled again.

The clock read 2.0 seconds and for most observers the belief was that CSU was dead in the water. Bu not this observer and certainly not this team.  This team possessed an incredible amount of poise and belief throughout the season and they still believed.

USF called their final timeout to set up an inbounds play from their own baseline.  It appeared the Rams only hope was to force a 5-second violation and that’s how they defended. They denied Williams and everyone else and the ball was thrown in bounds to no one. Hannah Tvrdy grabbed the ball and signaled for a TO. The buzzer went off as the clock has been errantly started.

An officials review put 1.6 seconds on the clock and the Rams had heir 3rd opportunity to tie the game and force OT.

Ryun Williams called a timeout and designed a play that required all  3-point shooters on the floor. Emile Hesseldal was the one inbounding the ball. At the top of the key, Ellen Nystrom would set a pick for Patrick and on the near wing, Tvrdy would set a pick for Sofie Tryggedsson.  

Sofie T is a talented freshman who was really starting to gain traction when she turned an ankle mid MWC season. She missed several weeks of games but worked her way back.  She is the definition of a sniper.

Hesseldal was handed the ball. And then Sofie T broke clean on the near wing. She caught, she loaded, she fired.  Mid-flight the ball looked like it had a chance but it rattled around the rim and fell harmlessly away as the buzzer sounded.

The Rams had fallen short but in the most remarkable way.

Because Sofie T had not played at all in this game prior to the final 1.6 seconds. And yet the staff knew she gave them a great option and designed a play that would use her. And then Emile Hesseldal read the play correctly and rather than forcing the ball to Patrick, she trusted the little used but highly talented Sofie T. A senior trusting a freshman who rarely plays.  The ultimate display of trust, love and respect. And while Sofie T missed, she had the courage to be out there to take and make what would be the biggest shot of the season for the Rams.

Sometimes people only see the makes and the final score.  This incredible season will be remembered for the final 5 seconds when a team seemingly dead in the water, showed their class, their respect, and their love for each other. An NCAA Tourney game on the line and they never forgot who they were.

A great team.

Winners.

More thoughts…

After the game I wanted to make sure I touched bases with both players and staff. To the person, everyone thanked me for making the trip out to see them and support them.  Polite, humble, grateful are words that describe this group of women.  But it was me doing the thanking.  For a great and most memorable season.  For being good enough to be in the NCAA which offered an opportunity for me to see them play at Pauley Pavilion, one of the most historic venues in college basketball.  That in of itself was a huge thrill for me.

I was standing with CSU fans, family, and media and looked to my left.  Ellen Nystrom had finished her media responsibilities and wandered to midcourt to catch up with a couple of UCLA women from Sweden. (And there was a male there that sure looked like Wyoming’s Alex Aka Gorski, another Swede). Elie Gustavsson joined them and here they were, a collection of Swedes catching up with each other.

And then I glanced across the court and there was Sofie T sitting and talking with a close friend from South Florida who just happens to be from her hometown in Denmark.   

Basketball had brought these girls to the United States. Their skill got them all into the NCAA Tourney and had afforded the opportunity to see each other and spend time with each other.   We are so fortunate at CSU to have such a wonderful group of international players.

I walked over to Sofie and told her how proud I was of her that she had the courage to take the final shot after sitting for nearly 2 hours.  She was disappointed in herself because she had missed.  But she also told me that she’ll spend much of the off-season working on her corner 3’s and she won’t miss the next time.

Ryun Williams had walked me over to Sofie. That’s what it took for me to actually walk on the Pauley floor. The very floor of Hazzard, Alcindor, Walton, Meyers, Curry… And Wooden.  Trust me when I say this. The security people are instructed not to let regular people (and riff raff like me) on that hallowed floor.

Dear Joe Parker

March 19, 2016

You are now officially on my shit list.

A couple of days ago I tweeted you to see if there were any reception events for CSU fans traveling to Los Angeles to see the women play in the NCAA Tournament.

When the CSU Men played in Louisville in 2012 and Lexington in 2013,CSU hosted some fantastic events.  They rented the upstairs of a restaurant in Louisville right across the street from the Yum! Center.  Appetizers, band, players, cheerleaders, fans, parents were all there and a good time was had by all.

In Lexington, CSU rented out a large building (a refurbed warehouse) and had band, cheerleaders, parents, fans present. My wife and I arrived at the same time as then AD Jack Graham and his wife Ginger and we entered together.  Again fun times.

Both events were set up by AD employee Deidre Church, a human Dynamo while passion for what she did spilled over enough that Jim McElwain took her to Florida with him.
Yesterday I sent an e-mail asking the same question.

I awakened this morning in my hotel in Westwood after a long day of travel and immediately checked my e-mail.

Crickets.

No response at all.

I realize I’m not a high roller in the world of AD donors.  I am a season ticket holder in both men’s and women’s basketball and donate a youth football season ticket.  I’m at the Executive Level of the Ram Club.  My support comes through things like this blog.

But you have let me down on this one.

Fans who travel to see their team deserve a little more than a simple “Here’s how you purchase a ticket to see the women in LA”.

And these women deserve more of an effort from you and your athletic department.

Title IX may be about scholarship money but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.  he women have put CSU on the national stage in the post-season.  They are what Tony Frank would describe as Front Porch.

I know plenty of people that think the world of you Joe.

I don’t.

You could have at least responded even if nothing was planned for today.  That’s what a customer-focused organization would do.

In academic terms, you got an F.

I Love L.A.

March 19, 2016

Well I made it!

It wasn’t an easy trip to say the least.

It started with waking up to 4″ of overnight snow in Fort Collins. Not an unmanageable amount but enough to make travel to Denver down the Roller Derby track known as I25 a bit of a challenge.  Prior to heading to DIA I had to stop in Aurora. A 75 minute trip normally. 150 minutes yesterday. I arrived at the event when lunch was served. I ate, grabbed my free Schlager, and it was off to DIA.

other than issues with the March Madness app (I missed the Michigan State-MTSU game), things went smoothly and the flight to Vegas was a good one. On the ground at 4:45PM. visions of arriving in LA by 9:30.

How wrong I was.

Because the McCarron Airport that I remember from all of the business travel is not the same.  And the city and the surrounding area is a Hell hole.

My baggage claim area was different than the normal one. It required a shuttle for which I waited about20 minutes. The bag arrived after another wait. Then another shuttle to get a rental car which had another 20 minute wait.  Then another long wait in line to pick up my car.  Upon leaving the airport, I stopped at a convenience store to pick up some lemonade and use the rest room.  It was one where I had to get a key from the clerk at the register.  I headed to the rest room and some clown decided he wanted to beat me to the rest room and ran in front of me. I showed him the key. He backed off.  I left the rest room and he tried to grab the key from me. I informed him it was my responsibility to return the key to the clerk and he could get it there.  

I got in my car and headed toward the freeway. I looked at the time and it was 7:15. It had taken. 2.5 hours to pickup a bag, pick up a rental car, and take a leak. My ETA was now about 11:15pm.

Somewhere between Barstow and Victorville, I started to feel the effect of a long day.  My eyes started to close so I pulled off the road to rest for a few minutes and decided to back off the 75mph speed I was driving. ETA became 11:30pm.

And the. It happened.

I zinged when I should have zagged in the maze of freeways on the outskirts of the city.  I decided to make lemonade out of it. Rather than backtracking, I keep going until I got to a Santa Monica Blvd exit. The street that my hotel is on.  I got to drive though the hopping club scene in West LA and the edge of Beverly Hills.

Which was special in and of itself because it bought me back nearly 49 years.

Most of you know that I grew up on the East Coast.  But in the late summer of 1967, our family hopped on a TWA flight to Los Angeles to vacation.  It was a magical trip for me.  My first flight ever.  Headphones playing Scott McKenzie’s “If You’re going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear Some Floweres in Your Hair”.

We didn’t stay in a hotel that week. My grandmother was a live-in for a rich old widow in Beverly Hills. The rich lady was out of town so we stayed at her place on Alta Drive just off Santa Monica Blvd.

And suddenly there was Alta drive on my right and the house I has occupied on that magical trip way back when.A visit to Disneyland,an LA-SF NFL exhibition game at The Coliseum.   It brought back memories of my grandmother, the kindest and most special woman that I have ever known. (Don’t tell my mom that. She’d be hurt)

And suddenly there was my hotel on the edge of Westwood.I checked in.

Midnight!

And immediately went to bed. 

 I’m about 1.5 miles from Pauley Pavilion.  

Can’t wait!

Ooh Las Vegas…

March 19, 2016

As I posted in an earlier blog, flights to Los Angeles were cost prohibitive when I tried to book on Monday for Thursday or Friday travel.

The only thing I found that fit my travel budget (+/- $1200) was a Frontier flight to Las Vegas followed by a 4-hour car ride to Westwood.  

I actually considered spending the first night in Vegas and then driving on Saturday to LA.  Of course my biggest concern was getting stuck on the black jack table and then sticking around to bet the Round of 32 games.  Which probably would have threatened my arrival by the start of the CSU-USF game in Pauley.

Speaking of Pauley, I have never been there.  And while I had wished that CSU got placed in Tempe, I’ll get to see the building where John Wooden did all of his magic.  I saw my first game in The Palestra. I’ve seen games in Madison Suare Garden. I attended Duke when the basketball arena was simply called Indoor Stdium as opposed to Cameron Indoor.  I had a trip to Baton Rouge once and stopped at the Maravich Assembly Center at LSU.  Maravich was my hero and I had to see his building (I’ve also seen a movie in the theater where Pistol Pete  used to dribble a ball while watching when he was in the 4th grade).

I’ll be able to close my eyes and see Wooden’s national championship teams. The 1964 team with a guard from Philly named Walt Hazzard. The 65 team with Gail Goodrich.  The Lew Alcindor teams from 67-69. The 70 and 71 teams with guys like Steve Patterson, Curtis Rowe, and Sidney Wicks. The Bill Walton & Keith Wilkes teams that won in 72.and 73 and lost in the 4 semi to NC State.

All of them were fantastic teams that executed on both ends of the floor better than anyone in the history of the game.

I’m a lucky man. I get to watch a great team on Saturday on the biggest stage in one of the all-time great venues.

March Madness is All About The Lemonade This Season

March 18, 2016

Flash back to last year at this time.

The CSU Women had lost to San Jose State in the. MWC Tourney quarterfinal and we’re headed to the WNIT where they were bumped out in the first round by Northern Colorado.

The Men had lost in the MWC Tourney semi to San Diego State but were seemingly safe to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournment.

Selection Sunday rolled around and there was no bid for the Rams. Instead a 1-seed in the NIT. At the time it was painful for both players, coaches, and fans.  Anger with a sense of helplessness as well when the Rams weren’t dancing.

I blogged about making lemonade out of lemons.  That the NIT offered an unbelievably rich history  and had a trip to play any one of the Meccas of all of college basketball, Madison Square Garden.  For whatever reason, the team wasn’t up to it and lost in the first round to a game and motivated South Dakota State squad.

Fast forward to this season. Hope always springs eternal and both men’s and women’s teams looked like there was some potential to be dancing.

After a 5-0 start, the men never figured out a way to fix their defensive issues and it was obvious that their only hope to advance to the NCAA’s was to win the MWC Tourney.  And that was a crazy long shot in and of itself.  As much as I wanted to believe, I couldn’t bring myself to making plans revolving around them making the NCAA’s.

On the other hand, the Women had an early road loss to Penn after a nice home win over BYU. Both tourney level teams at the time (and would be proven true when both won their leagues). And then they started winning. And winning. And winning.

So I decided to go all in on the women.

Instead of the MWC Tourney, I decided it was the NCAA or bust.

I had a pair of tickets to the first two rounds of the Men’s Tournament in Denver. I paid $540 for them with something like $30 in handling. A total of $570.   Nice seats in the lower level corner 15 rows up. Very sellable.

Two weeks before we knew that the CSU Womenwere headed to the Dance, I listed them on Craigslist for $1200.  WIthin 3 hours, I had a person contact me who wanted them.  We met the next day in Firestone and he handed me 12 crisp Benjamin’s.  

Lemonade baby!

And then like I had hoped, the CSU Women scored a marvelous comeback in the MWC CHampionship over Fresno State to earn their bid to the NCAA’s.  

More lemonade!

The Selection Show was not nervy with the MWC auto-bid in hand but it was more about who and where. We were hoping Tempe but instead got LA site and South Florida in the first round.  Sett8ing up travel was brutal but somehow I could a flight to Vegas to be followed by a car ride to Westwood.

Editorial: The NCAA Basketball Tournament for both men and women has lost their way when it comes to being fan friendly for those that want to attend.  Last minute flights and hotels are expensive.  For the men it’s about the TV $’s. For the women, who knows?

All the arrangements were made and all that was left was to head to the airport.

Not so fast.

On Wednesday, I came down with some kind of illness. Flu-like, achy pain. COngestion. Fever. Not good.  In fact, there was no chance I would be able to travel if it had stayed that way.

I spent all day on Thursday wrapped in blankets, eating chicken noodle soup, drinking tea with honey and lemon, eating bread.  Lots of water and Vitamin C.  Lots of Raspberry Lemonade.

The fever finally broke for ther first time around 6:00PM.  I went to bed early and was certainly not 100%.  I started feeling crummy again but awoke at 2:00AM and started downing Vitamin C and big glasses of raspberry lemonade.

I fell back to sleep  and awoke at 4:00AM absolutely drenched in sweat.  The fever had really broken this time.  

Again, lemonade!

Of course there’s snow to make the departure a little problematic. I’m not worried about that.  In 2003, we somehow made it out of Fort Collins to see CSU play Duke in Salt Lake CIty.  That storm produced 39″ of snow. SO this morning when I awakened to 4″ and crummy roads I wasn’t too concerned.

It’s March.

It’s all about the lemonade!

My MWC Womens’ Basketball Post-Season Awards

March 6, 2016

  
To paraphrase Leslie Gore who sang “It’s My Party”…

It’s my blog and I’ll homer if I want to, homer if I want to, homer if I want to.

You would homer too, if CSU happened to you

I could plow through all of the stats for the conference schedule. Simple stats like Points Per Game, Rebounds, Field Goal Percentage.  I could plow through advanced stats built around efficiency.  And then I could rely on the eye test. I’ve had the opportunity to see every team play live with the exception of New Mexico because of the unbalanced schedules in the MWC.

I could talk about some marvelous guards such as Utah State’s Funda Nakkosoglu of Utah State, a Jimmer-esque type of guard who is crafty with the ball and can score.  I could talk about Wyoming’s Marquelle Dent, a bouncy and quick scorer and playmaker.  I could talk about San Jose State’s Dez Ramos who is another high-volume scorer.  All of them are really good guards.  UNLV’s Brook Johnson is another who can score a variety of ways and defend as well.

At the forwards and wings I could talk about New Mexico’s Cherise Beynon, who can score, rebound, and defend. Boise’s State’s Brooke Pahukoa can really fill it up from the perimeter. The Bronco’s Shalen Shaw can score and rebound with the best of them. Fresno State’s Toni Smith does it all on both ends of the floor. New Mexico’s  Khadijah Shumpert is a supremely talented inside scorer.  Wyoming’s Liv Roberts is tough.

There are two really strong post players.  Bego Faz Davolos of Fresno State is a shot-blocking presence who can score close to the basket. And Boise State’s Miquelle Askew is as tough as it gets to defend on the low block.

Those are 11 really good players, all very capable of making anyone’s first or second team.

Except mine.

Because I just spent a season with a team that went 28-1 and 18-0 in the conference.  A team that is built around the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  Not an easy feat.  Because it takes a willingness to subvert one’s own individual numbers for the good of the team.  That decent shot that might go in gets better with a pass to another player who has a better shot. And so on.

And it takes energy away from the offensive end to commit to playing defense at a high level on every possession.  Offensive numbers don’t look as good when you commit more energy to the defensive end. Offensive numbers don’t jump out when making your teammate successful is as important or more important than your own numbers.

So I’m gonna play General Manager and I have the first pick. 

With my first pick I choose Ellen Nystrom, the do-everything 6’1″ player from CSU.  She scores a little more than 10 a game. She is also 3rd in assists, 1st in Assist-to-Turnover ratio, and 3rd in Defensive Rebounds. She can guard the post and she can stop your point guard.

You get to choose next.

You would probably take Faz Davalos, the rebounding and shot-blocking post from Fresno State.

I would counter with CSU’s Jamie Patrick, the top 3-point shooter in the MWC, 3rd leading scorer, and one of the top perimeter defenders.

You would probably take Nakkasoglu from Utah State. The MWC’s leading scorer.

I would them take CSU’s Keyora Wharry. She averages about 11 a game but her strength is in transition and late in the clock. No one in the conference is more effective at scoring at the end of a uarter.

You would take someone like Khadijah Shumpert of New Mexico, a powerful inside scorer and rebounder.

I would take CSU’s 6’3″ forward Elie Gustavsson, a scorer inside and out who can get a rebound, defend inside and out, and who provides 94″ of defense at her size.

You would probably take Marquelle Dent, the guard from Wyoming

I would take  6’1″ forward Emilie Hesseldal of CSU. The most underrated player in the MWC.  She can shoot but doesn’t. She spreads the floor, sets picks, grabs rebounds, breaks presses, initiates the half court offense.  

And you would probably take Brooke Pahukoa of Boise State or Cherise Begnon of UNM to give you the perimter scoring threat to go with the inside presence of Faz Davolos and Shumpert. I personally think Begnon is a better player on both ends. I also think of all the players on your team she would look best in a Ram uniform in terms of how she plays.

Spot a trend here?

I like unselfish players who know how to play both ends of the floor.  They can post up or play on the perimeter on offense and they can defend a variety of positions on the defensive end.  

Give me CSU’s starting lineup vs Faz Davalos, Shumpert, Begnon, Dent, and Nakkasoglu.

And I believe my team will beat yours more times than not.

As long as I have CSU’s Ryun Williams as my Head Coach.

I would assume that you would take Fresno State’s Jaime White who does an outstanding job for the Bulldogs.

I think my team would beat yours  more than half the time.

My Individual Awards

MWC Player of the Year – Ellen Nystrom, CSU

MWC Freshman of the Year – Marta Gomez, Wyoming

MWC Defensive Player of the Year – Bego Faz Davalos, Fresno State (I can’t give everything to Nystrom)

MWC 6th Woman of the Year – Alana Arias, CSU

MWC Coach of the Year – Ryun Williams, CSU

Colorado State 87 – Air Force Academy 73

March 6, 2016

Senior Day in Moby honoring 4 great seniors – Tiel Daniels, Joe De Ciman, Fred Richardson and Antwan Scott.

It’s always one of my favorite games because I’m such a sentimental schmuck and I like to say goodbye to the kids that play the game I love so much.

And I had to work today until 3pm.

But I wasn’t going to miss the post-game celebration and neither was my wife.

I saw on Twitter that the Rams opened with a pair of three-balls. Then I heard that they had fallen behind and trailed by 3 at the half. I left work, tuned the radio into Gary Miller and Brian Roth and headed back to Fort Collins to pick up my wife.  

The Rams opened slowly and their 25-22 deficit quickly grew to 8 as they trailed 37-29.  Emmanuel Omogbo started scoring inside and the Rams crept back into the game.  A Prentiss Nixon three-ball propelled the Rams into the lead and they never looked back.  John Gillon nailed a pair of three-balls and the lead grew to double digits. At that point, my wife and I were in the Moby lot and we hustled to our seats.

I got to see Antwan Scott nail a pair of three-balls and score a beautiful driving layup.  I got to see JD Paige nail a three-ball.   I saw Fred score a nice layup, Tiel hammer home a dunk.

Air Force closed the lead to 10 with about 3 minutes left but they never got closer. Joe DeCiman closed out his CSU career nailing a pair of three-balls from the left corner and the Rams had their Senior Day victory, delivered in resounding fashion with a 65-point second half!

It was on to the post-game to honor these 4 seniors. DeCiman would finish his career at Moby with 85 wins, the most every for a CSU player.  Nice kids all of them but I’ll remember Joe and Tiel the most. Joe for his politeness off the court. Tiel for his passion and support of all things CSU.  They are two great young men.

   
Stan Hornung and Joe DeCiman

  

Tiel Daniels and Emilie Hesseldal
 
Joe DeCiman flanked by Len and Jan Carpenter, his scholarship donors.

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