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Colorado State 73 – Fresno State 56 (Women)

January 20, 2017

Mea culpa.

Im over a day late with this one. I only have myself to blame.  I kind of let the result of the mens game at Fresno State get to me.  College basketball is my wintertime passion and I am a fan first, a writer second.  

And it wasnt really fair to the Ram women who delivered a high-level performance over the visitors from Fresno, moving their season record to 13-5 and MWC record to 5-1.

Fresno State have been the Rams biggest MWC competition over the last several years, and while they are in a bit of a rebuilding mode, they remain a solid program coached by former UNC coach Jaime White.  They are focused, hard-nosed, and well-schooled and the games between these two teams are usually very good.

And this game was no exception as the Rams busted out to an early 7-0 lead against a Fresno man-to-man D.  A switch to a 2-3 zone slowed the Rams down and Fresno ran off the next 8 points to push into an 8-7 lead. The game of runs would continue as a three-ball from CSUs Myann Hamm would trigger a 10-0 run to push the Rams into a 23-11 lead after the first quarter.

Fresno fought back as the Rams cooled off from the field and the Bulldogs guard Candice White began to assert her influence on the game, scoring inside and out.  The quality of play was high from both sides.  Physical and intelligence defense with minimal fouling, strong ball movement on the offensive end.  CSU led 32-27 at the half.

And it was game on as the Bulldogs opened the second half on an extended 13-5 run pushing them into a 40-37 lead midway through the 3rd quarter.  White was scoring inside and out on a variety of nifty pull-up jumpers, step backs, and parries to the rim and the Rams were struggling to defend the Bulldogs perimeter weave.

An Elie Gustavsson block, steal, and short jumper pushed the Rams into a small lead.  And then sophomore big Amanda Kantzy happened.  Kantzy had come off the bench in the first half and nailed a baseline jumper on her first touch.  It would be a harbinger of the explosion to come.

Once again she nailed a baseline jumper.  On a subsequent possession she buried a corner three-ball.  And then on the final possession of the 3rd quarter, Kantzy executed a perfect pick-and-pop with Ellen Nystrom at the top of the key. She caught the pass, let fly over Fresno big Bez Faz Davalos. 

Swish!

It pushed the Rams into a 53-44 lead after three but based on how the game was being played, there was no way the Rams were home free.

Until Kantzy continued her hot shooting in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, draining another pair of threes, the second of which pushed the lead to 63-50 with just over 6 minutes remaining.  The Rams were able to finish the game out clinically, pushing their lead as high as 18 before the final buzzer sounded.

Ellen Nystrom once again led the way, scoring 20 points along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists.  Elie Gustavsson finished with 17 and 8.  AndBy the time she was finished, Kantzy had scored 16 points, 14 of which came in her 7-minute stint in the second half.  The three Swedes had combined for 53 points and were joined in double figures by Hannah Tvrdy who finished with 12, including the best basket of the game; a one-on-one breakaway where she went behind the back and put the Fresno defender on her rear end before scoring a lefty layup.

One could say that the final score flattered to Rams as the Bulldogs had missed a variety of really good looks near the basket.  Regardless, the Rams had played their trademark solid defense and executed offensively against everything fresno had thrown at them.  They had gotten their just desserts.

Other thoughts…

For the second straight game, a player came off the bench to score a career high.  In the win at New Mexico, Myann Hamm had come off the bench to score 16. Kantzy followed with 16 against Fresno.  Their contributions were very much needed as the Rams have been playing short-handed.  First they lost starting big Veronika Mirkovic for the season with a broken foot.  Then a foot injury to part-time starter Stine Austgulen, followed by a shoulder injury to part-time starter Callie Kaiser. As soon as Austgulen and Kaiser came back, starter Sofie Tryggedsson is out with a leg injury.  Kaiser is still playing hurt, and with 4 freshmen redshirting, the Rams essentially played the Bulldogs with a little less than 7 players.

Nystrom, Gustavsson, and Tvrdy are the rocks.  But it sure is fun watching the young ones (and the future of the program) begin to influence games.  Kantzy has shown flashes but it wasnt just her offense this time; her defensive movement was much better protecting the paint. Hamm backed up her performance at New Mexico with a 7 point and 8 rebound stint off the bench. Austgulen played the intelligent 94′ game that she has displayed, and Kaiser is a barrel of energy that, when healthy, gives the ladies a player very much like what Pierce Hornung used to deliver for the men.

Speaking of Nystrom and Gustavsson…

It was Elie Gustavsson birthday and she was the one who handed the presents to Rams fans on her way to a brilliant performance.  The 17 and 8 in the box score dont tell the whole story.  She was also given the task of defending Fresno All-MWC big Faz Davalos and Elie played her hard and smart, limiting her touches in the post and holding her to 10 points.  

Ellen Nystrom had her typical understated game where she is the best player on the floor. Again the box score doesnt tell the whole story.  She dictates the tempo on the offensive end which is so important to how the Rams play the entire 94′.  Defensively, she guards perimeter players but is always there with help defense in the post. Her ability to read the game on the defensive end is remarkable.  20 points 6 rebounds 5 assists is nothing to sneeze at.  But there is so much more.

With the win, Nystrom and Gustavsson had their career records move to 92-23. And their conference record is 53-7.

Let that sink in.  

53-7

They only have 6 more regular season games remaining in Moby, the next of which is Saturday afternoon vs. Utah State.  I would suggest you figure out a way to get there to cheer for these two remarkable young ladies as they do their best to win the Rams another regular season MWC Championship.

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