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Colorado State 65 – Gonzaga 49

November 14, 2017

So I have to come clean.

I didnt blog the last game which our Lady Rams lost 83-69 to Idaho. The invading Vandals shot lights out in a display that was reminiscent of New Mexico’s men in 2013. They outfought the Rams on the glass and on the floor and were deserving winners.

But I didnt hold the loss against them. Because I was late to the game and didnt get to my seat until about 5 minutes had elapsed. The Rams led that one 8-5 when I got there. Next thing you knew the Vandals had a 26-8 lead. 21 in a row. It was my punishment for being late. A game that the basketball gods abandoned my team because of my transgressions.

It had nothing to do with the Rams not hitting the glass, not defending with enough energy, taking and missing bad shots.

Fast forward to tonight with a bigger, better opponent. The Gonzaga Lady Bulldogs. Defending conference champions from a very good WCC. Enough returning players to be picked as the 2018 pre-season WCC leader. N 11-seed last season in the NCAA Tournament.

I made sure to be in my seat for the opening tip so that the basketball gods would create a level playing field. Things couldnt go as bad as they had against Idaho.

And yet Gonzaga ran out to an early 13-2 lead scoring easily. The Rams started 1-8 from the field and things werent looking good. Its the kind of stuff that can happen with a young and inexperienced team early in the season. Its not what fans have been conditioned to watch in the past four years but you cant say that it s unexpected at this point of the season.

The Rams closed the quarter trailing 20-9 as only freshman Lore Devos and junior sharpshooter Sofie Tryggedsson put their names on the scoresheet.

And then in the second quarter along came Annie Brady. Brady is a JC transfer from Salt Lake and had shown glimpses of effective play in the paint in very limited minutes. Not so much in terms of scoring but a physical edge and a desire to compete for rebounds.

And the Rams began their way back in the game as Brady grabbed rebounds in bunches and scored at the rim. Her play opened things up on the perimeter and the Rams began to make shots from beyond the arc. When Tryggedsson made her third consecutive three-ball, the Rams had pushed themselves into the lead at 33-31 when the halftime buzzer founded. Brady had 5 and 7 and Sofie had 12 points.

While the shooting had improved, it was the work on the glass that propelled the Rams back into the game. Gonzaga is a physical team and regularly outrebounds their opponents. At the half, the Rams were +8 on the glass.

It felt a bit like – gasp – a Larry Eustachy type of game.

Gonzaga came out to start the second half as if they had heard a bit of a come to Jesus halftime talk from their coach. Very fast and very physical. An attempt to exert their will and re-establish themselves.

And the Rams handled it beautifully as they continued to defend and rebound. They punched back with a Hannah Tvrdy 3-ball and a Devos layup. They pushed their lead to 38-31 and the Rams were starting play confidently. A beautiful drive and dish by Veronika Mirkovic to Brady pushed the Rams into a 40-31 midway through the quarter and the crowd roared in appreciation of a beautiful basketball play.

Gonzaga scored their first hoop of the second half after nearly 6 minutes to bring the score to 40-33. Little did anyone know that it would be the closest the Lady Bulldogs would come for the rest of the game.

The ball was moving on the offensive end and no matter what Gonzaga threw at them, the Rams continued to create good shots. The feet were moving on the defensive end and every Gonzaga miss was being followed by Rams voraciously gobbling up rebounds. By quarter’s end, the Rams held a 46-38 lead.

Gonzaga continued to throw the kitchen sink defensively at the Rams with a variety of presses, traps, and halfcourt defenses and the Rams responded as a quality team would. They methodically ran their sets and created good shots. Gonzaga forced a good number of turnovers but the Rams recovered well enough to prevent any easy baskets.

Six minutes into the final quarter, the Rams were on a 13-4 run and the lead was 59-42. Not quite home free but the Fat Lady was warming up. She sung her first note when Mirkovic scored at the rim following a Tvrdy miss and was in full voice after a Stine Austgulen steal and a pair of Tvrdy free throws.

The final buzzer sounded and the 2017-18 edition of the Rams had scored a famous victory over a very good opponent.

Annie Brady finished the game with 11 points and 15 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Hannah Tvrdy had also produced a double-double from her guard position, delivering 10 points and 10 rebounds. Devos and Tryggedsson both finished with 12 points and Austgulen delivered a solid yet quiet 11 points. Five in double figures, reminiscent of the 2013-14 championship team that scored by committee.

And while they had turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 19 times (credit Gonzaga for a lot of those), the Rams had delivered a game on the glass unlike any seen in quite awhile. They outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs 48-31. They not only fought the Bulldogs but they were often fighting each other as well.

They looked they had received a dose of Rebounding Religion and it was something they can build on in this very young season.

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