Feb. 15, 2014
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Good teams find ways to win games when things aren't going their way and baskets are hard to come by. The Colorado State Rams (20-4, 12-1 MW) did just that by grinding out a 53-47 victory over third-place Fresno State (14-10, 8-5 MW) on Saturday afternoon at Moby Arena.
"That was a good win," Head Coach Ryun Williams said. "They aren't all going to be pretty, they're not all going to be smooth, but this group just keeps finding a way (to win)."
Junior guard AJ Newton led all players with 14 points while junior guard Gritt Ryder added 13 points and four assists and freshman guard Ellen Nystrom tallied 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
With its first 20-win season since the 2002-03 campaign, the Rams have found a variety of methods to secure victories. This time, CSU notched its second victory of the season when it scored less than 60 points.
Just three days after putting up 100 points on the road at Utah State, the Rams struggled immensely from the field. CSU led just once at 5-3 in the first half and connected on only 22.2 percent of its shots, including going 1-15 from the three-point line.
While Colorado State couldn't seem to buy a basket in the first half, the Bulldogs took advantage by knocking down six of their 15 three-point attempts and opened up a 27-16 lead at halftime.
At halftime, Williams addressed his team and told them to remain poised and that they just needed to win the second half by twelve points. It was a message that his girls were prepared for.
"During halftime, no one was nervous," Ryder said. "We knew that we could beat this team even though we were down by 11 at half; that comes from our competitiveness, practices and preseason practices that are paying off now."
Despite being held to a season-low for points in a half this season, the Rams proved to be resilient and came charging back early in the half, much to the delight of the 2,003 fans in attendance.
Colorado State gave Fresno State a taste of its own medicine and picked up its defensive intensity. Colorado State opened up the second half with a quick 7-0 run to make it a four-point contest with 17:10 left in the game.
Fresno State stretched the lead to as much as nine points at 39-30 with 12:58 left in the game before the Rams proved why they sit atop the Mountain West standings. Colorado State rattled off a 13-0 run over the next 6:37 to take a four-point lead over the Bulldogs. During the run, the Rams took its first lead of the game since the 16:43 mark of the first half.
Once CSU gained the lead, it would not relinquish it. Up by one, the Rams broke the press and Nystrom found senior forward Sam Martin running the lane for an easy layup and Martin's lone field goal of the game. The score gave CSU some breathing room as the Rams closed out the game to seal a six-point victory over the Bulldogs.
"Our threes weren't falling, so we had to be more aggressive and take it to the basket," Nystrom said of the team's second-half adjustment. "We haven't had a close game in a while, but we got over it and fought through it."
In the second half, Fresno State was limited to just 27.6 percent shooting from the field including 4-19 from downtown. The Rams forced the Bulldogs into 17 turnovers which they converted into 18 points. In a game in which scoring was hard to come by, that proved to be the difference.
Fresh off this grueling victory which stretched CSU's win streak to nine games, and 16 of the last 17, the Rams now face their toughest challenge to date when they travel to Boise, Idaho to take on second-place Boise State on Wednesday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. MT and will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.
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