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Colorado State 75 – Montana 43 (Women)

December 11, 2015

On paper this looked to be a solid match-up between pre-season favorites to win their respective conference championships.  Th Lady Rams came into the game at 7-1 frsh off a road win at in-state rival Northern Colorado. The Lady Griz had won 4 of the last 5 including a home 86-51 blowout of Cal State -Disneyland (Fullerton actually).

An early-ball gave the Griz an early lead and the Rams struggled with a pair of unforced turnovers.  Ellen Nystrom and Elie Gustavsson started to score in the paint, propelling the Rams to a 15-12 lead after one quarter.

And then it happened.

The Rams have been a very good defensive team all year but have struggled to get any kind of consistency on the offensive end.   Until tonight.

In easily the best performance in any quarter this season, the Rams had their way on the offensive end whil maintaining their intensity on the defensive end.  Keyora Wharry penetrated and scored in the paint.  Ellen Nystrom has her way with mid-range jumpers. Alana Arias powered her way in the post. And  Jamie Patrick heated up from beyond the arc.  On the defensive end, the Rams forced Montana into awkward shots and, led by Amelie Hessedahl, grabbed nearly every defensive rebound opportunity. They finished the half with a putback by frosh big Amanda Kantzy and a Wharry layup at the buzzer.

The Rams had delivered a 26-8 quarter to extend their lead to 41-20.

They had shot 11-18 from the field including 3-4 from beyond the arc.  They held Montana scoreless for the first 5:30 of the quarter and to 4-19 from the field.  They outrebounded the Griz 16-9.  In short the Rams had delivered a dominant masterpiece.

The Rams made the rest of the game a formality as they defended as hard as ever, even with that big lead.  They extended the lead to the point where they were able to get minutes for all of the bench. And when the final buzzer sounded, the Rams had delivered their most resounding performance of the season.  They had held a good team to 22% shooting including only 1-13 from beyond the arc.  They outrebounded the Griz, they forced more turnovers.

More importantly, the depth of the team is starting to surface in the form of better chemistry on both ends of the floor.  The extra pass on the perimeter, the inside-out passing from the post, the timing of ball screens to free up dribble penetration.  All starting to come together for these women.

Defense, defense…  Great defense begins with solid pressure on the ball.  And the Rams are getting it from Keyora Wharry and Hannah Tvrdy.  They are not ones to force lots of turnovers but they are intelligent and athletic enough to keep the opposing teams’ guards from initiating their sets where they want to.  Offensive flow is disrupted and leads to shot clock violations and forced shots.  And good luck when teams have to shoot over perimeter defenders like Ellen Nystrom and Jamie Patrick, both of whom are tall and athletic.

The best scoring line of the night – Sure Ellen Nystrom was threatening a triple-double at the half and ended with 15, 8, and 5. Sure Keyora Wharry and Alana Arias had scored 12 each and Elie Gustavsson 11.  But the unsung star of the night was Emile Hesseldal.  She is a unique big in that she can bring the ball upcourt and initiate the offense.  She didnt take a shot all night but her post defense was superb.  She blocked two shots and delivered 8 tough rebounds in only 15 minutes of action.

And finally… I did manage to talk a little with Coach Ryun Williams after the game.  He was happy with the win but he was most ecstatic about the way his young players finished the game out.  They ran the sets well and produced lots of good scoring opportunities. Even though they missed the open looks, they were playing the way he expects them to play.  Crisp passing, crisp cuts, solid screens, and open looks by players 9-13.  Sharp, precise, and not sloppy.  That my friends is the sign of a deep and well-coached team.

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