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Colorado State 58 – New Mexico 55 (Women)

February 23, 2017

Spoiled.

Thats what I am as a season ticket holder for the CSU Womens Basketball Team.

Its easy to take for granted what these women do every time they take to the floor because they win so much.  They have delivered so many powerhouse performances in Moby over the past few years that its hard to accept close games a lot of nights.

And on this night in Moby, facing the second place Lady Lobos with a chance to clinch a fourth consecutive MWC regular season title, I was hoping (and almost expecting) an easy and convincing victory.

And it sure had a bit of that feel to it in the first half as the Rams jumped out to a 27-17 halftime lead, holding the visitors to 21% shooting with their trademark stifling man-to-man defense.

But coaches get paid to coach and players play to win.  Opposing players are on scholarship too. And when the Rams came out of halftime a little slow and the Lobos attacked the Rams more aggressively, it was game on.  The Rams fought off a flurry to extend their lead back to 9, but when UNM’s Cherise Beynon went the full length of the court to drain a long three-ball in the final 3.5 seconds of the 3rd quarter, the Rams’ lead had been cut to 3 at 41-38.

Back and forth the two teams went at each other.  The Rams were hanging on but barely as New Mexico ratcheted up their defense, forcing the Rams into tough shots and shot clock violations.  And when the Lobos’ guard Laneah Bryan drained a corner three ball, UNM had their first lead since the 3:00 mark of the first quarter at 52-51.

And thats when the Rams went to work.  Seniors Ellen Nystrom and Elie Gustavsson along with junior guard Hannah Tvrdy had speared the Rams’ effort all night.

But it was redshirt sophomore (and Fort Collins native)  Myann Hamm who delivered one of the great series of plays over the next minute to propel the Rams.

Within seconds of Bryan’s go-ahead three, Hamm countered with a corner three of her own to push the Rams back into the lead.  A minute later, as New Mexico’s Van Der Kiel was maneuvering in the post, Hamm swooped in from the wing to steal the ball.  Then, after a Nystrom miss, Hamm poke-checked the ball from Beynon at mid-court and scored a breakaway layup to push the Rams lead to 4 at 56-52.

But the Lobos werent going away easily, and when Bryan banked in a three from the top of the circle, the lead was 56-55 with 35 seconds remaining.

And now it was time for Nystrom to do her thing.

The Lobos chose not to foul (they were sitting on only 1 team foul at the time) and the Rams calmly moved the ball around until there were about 10 seconds left on the shot clock.  Nystrom caught the ball at the top of the key, the rest of the Rams spread, and it was Iso time for the Swede.  A couple of games ago she had shot a pull-up jumper to beat Fresno at the buzzer in a similar situation.  Guarded by 6’5″ big Van Der Kiel, it looked like it could be the same.  But a head and shoulder fake at the elbow, a couple of dribbles later, Nystrom scored a flying underhand layup as the shot clock expired.

Still 5 seconds remaining and with the Women’s game allowing the ball to be inbounded at midcourt after a timeout, there was plenty of time for the Lobos to send the game into OT.

The Lobos ran a play that got their leading scorer for the game Alex Laperolorie what appeared to be an open look on the far wing. She caught the ball and elevated to shoot.  But out of nowhere came Nystrom who flew high and far and rejected the shot out of bounds.  Two seconds remained on the clock and the Lobos tried a similar play to the other side. But when Gustavsson jumped out, the ball was fumbled, and the buzzer sounded.

Another close victory where the Rams had out executed their opponents down the stretch. Its become a bit of a trademark of this year’s squad who have a hard time making enough shots to put their opponents away. 

Nystrom and Gustavsson were the Dub Dub Girls once again. Nystrom finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, and 3 steals; a sublime performance by the reigning and about to be repeat MWC Player of the Year recipient.  Gustavsson struggled from the field, finishing with 11 points on 4-15 shooting, but grabbed 11 rebounds and played outstanding post defense.  UNM’s Beynon had a double-double, Bryan would finish with 12 on 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc, and Laperolerie had 16.

But no one was bigger than Myann Hamm in that one glorious minute as the Rams clinched their fourth consecutive title.

Like I said, I’m spoiled.

More on the Dub Dub Girls…

Ellen Nystrom is clearly on her way to winning her second consecutive MWC Player of the Year Award.  And Elie Gustavsson is on her way to All-MWC honors for the first. Time after being named the Most Outstanding Player in last year’s MWC Tourney.  Nystrom has started every game in her CSU career and Gustavsson has started all but 1.  They are the first duo to  win four consecutive MWC Basketball regular season championships.  And with the win over New Mexico, their record in regular season conference games now stands at 61-8.

Nystrom also showed why she should be named Defensive Player of the Year as well.  She spent most of this game with the defensive assignment on 6’5″ big Van Der Keijl.  SHe held her to 6 points on 2-8 shooting, well below her 14ppg average.  And then at the moment of truth she jumped out and recorded her 4th block of the game on Laperoleries jumper.  She can guard all 5 positions, she grabs defensive rebounds, she records steals.  Voters always favor shot blockers in these awards but there is no doubt who the best defender is.

And finally…

CSU does a really cool thing by posting Twitter photos on the big video board.  My dogs Ogie and Wally made their debut last night sporting their Swedish flag bandanas in honor of the Dub Dub Girls.

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