San Diego, CA — Colorado State traveled to sunny San Diego with one goal in mind: to clinch the Mountain West Conference title outright. The defensive powerhouse proved up for the task and became the first men or women’s team in Mountain West history to claim the title outright in four consecutive seasons with an 80-46 win over the Aztecs.
“We moved the ball well, we found the open shooter, and we were ready to shoot,” Colorado State’s head coach Ryun Williams said after moving to 22-6 on the season.
Technical issues involving the game clock delayed the start of the game about 15 minutes, but once the teams took the court, the action didn’t stop. San Diego State needed to get off to a fast start. They play well when they start strong, going 1-15 when they trail at halftime this season. The Aztecs had to get up early – but Saturday didn’t pan out that way.
San Diego State stayed in the game with their offensive rebounds. In the first half, the Aztecs had six offensive rebounds opposed to Colorado State’s zero offensive rebounds.
With a little over seven minutes left in the first half, the Aztecs only trailed by one point after a jumper from McKynzie Fort. SDSU was right there at 23-22, but in a blink of an eye, the Rams pulled away on a 21-5 run to close the first half.
Colorado State ended the first 20 minutes up 44-27 with 17 defensive rebounds and shooting nearly 58%. Even though the Aztecs knew they needed to get off to a fast start, Colorado State’s dominant defense didn’t let that happen. The Aztecs shot just 30% in the first two periods and uncharacteristically went 5-16 from the arc.
The Rams continued to look like a well-oiled machine as the third quarter got underway, looking like they were well on their way to a No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tournament. They held SDSU to only two points in the first eight and a half minutes of the third stanza.
Even with a monster lead, the Rams’ bench didn’t quiet. The team stayed energized and engaged throughout the game.
“We have a lot of fun on the bench,” guard Stine Austgulen said after the game. “We’re just a great group of girls and everyone gets along really well, so it’s easy to be happy for each other.”
With a 14-0 run in the first and second quarters and a 15-0 run in the second half, Colorado State and its defense controlled the game from beginning to end with 36 defensive rebounds and seven steals.
Not only was rebounding going well for the Rams, but Williams was particularly pleased with how his team located the open San Diego State shooters making their shots tough.
“We located the open shooter and we made the right plays,” Williams said. “I liked how we kept the ball in front of us. I thought our middle defenders, like Amanda [Kantzy] and Ellen [Nystrom], did just a really good job of playing big, wide, and athletic.”
While everyone was expecting the game to come down to how well the Aztecs shot from the arc, the team couldn’t figure out how to score against the zone.
“That’s been our Achilles heel in these past few games,” Aztecs Head Coach Stacie Terry said after the loss. “Everyone sees it and everyone is zoning it now. It’s ironic because we were getting all this hype about how well we were shooting the ball and shooting the three. That’s kind of disappeared now.”
Terry continued, “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure out how we can get shots against the zone. We’ve been working really hard on it, but it’s obviously going to take some more time.”
Now with the regular season title in the bag, the Rams have two more games before they shift their focus to the Mountain West Tournament.
“It’s great we won the regular season, but our main goal is to win the tournament. We’re still hungry,” Austgulen said.
The Mountain West Championship tournament runs March 6-10 in Las Vegas.