For the first time in 12 years, the Colorado State women's basketball team has been crowned Mountain West Champions after knocking off the UNLV Lady Rebels 84-64 at Moby Arena on Wednesday night.
The Rams had finished no better than tied for third place in the Mountain West standings in any season since the 2001-02 campaign and were picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West preseason poll, but with two games left to play this season, they have clinched the title at 14-2 in league play and 22-5 overall.
"This is a really good league this year with great parody," Williams said. "For our kids to win the league and show the tremendous amount of toughness on the road and validate all those tough road wins with home wins is tremendous."
In just his second season at the helm at Colorado State, Head Coach Ryun Williams is the third coach in program history to bring the school a conference title, joining Greg Williams and Tom Collen.
"I'm happy our program and our kids, but also Colorado State," Williams said. "This is great for our university."
With the win, Colorado State also improved its home winning streak to 12 games which is the fourth longest streak in school history.
Junior guard AJ Newton led all scorers on Wednesday night with 21 points, while junior forward Sam Martin (17), freshman guard Ellen Nystrom (16) and junior guard Gritt Ryder (10) joined her in double figures. As a team, the Rams shot 50 percent from the field and were 12-23 from beyond the arc.
The Lady Rebels were forced into 17 turnovers which Colorado State converted into 23 points. The Rams also displayed their unselfish brand of basketball and racked up 25 assists on 29 made field goals. Nystrom led the team in that department with eight assists, while Ryder contributed with six assists and Newton added five.
Colorado State got off to a slow start in the first half and found itself down by as much as seven in the opening half. UNLV used its hot shooting to take a 37-32 lead into the intermission with the Lady Rebels shooting 50 percent from the field and 6-9 from the three-point line.
The beginning of the second half saw UNLV extend its lead up to nine points at 47-38 with 16:35 left in the game. Facing the adversity, the Rams began to flex their muscles as a team and clamped down on defense. Down 51-49, the Rams used a 19-0 run, the longest run of the season, to propel the team ahead by 17 points at 68-51 with 5:40 left in the game.
The run was spurred by the stellar shooting of Newton, who knocked down three consecutive three-pointers. Newton finished the game with five made three-pointers.
Much of Colorado State's second-half success was attributed to the team's defensive tenacity. After allowing UNLV to shoot well in the first half, the Lady Rebels were held to just 30.3 percent shooting in the second half and 2-8 from the three-point line.
Senior forward Alicia Nichols contributed mightily to CSU's comeback effort with six points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Nichols kept many plays alive with her hustle plays which resulted in easy baskets for the Rams.
Colorado State has a week off now before returning to action to take on the San José State Spartans in San Jose on March 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT and will be broadcast LIVE on KIIX AM 1410 and online at kiixcountry.com/listen.
Article Furnished by CSU Athletics. Used with Permission
Photos: CSU Rams Women's Basketball MW Champs
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