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FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A notable 2016-17 season for the Colorado State women's basketball team came to a close on Sunday, as the Rams fell to the UC Davis Aggies, 58-57, in round two of the Women's National Invitation Tournament at Moby Arena.
With Sunday's result, Colorado State finishes the season with a 25-9 record and a 15-3 Mountain West record. The Rams close a historic 2016-17 season that included an unprecedented fourth consecutive Mountain West regular season title, something no other women's or men's basketball team has ever accomplished in conference history.
CSU was once again led offensively by its seniors, Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson. Nystrom scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Gustavsson scored 12 with as many rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. The duo close their collegiate careers as the winningest female or male basketball players in Mountain West history by nearly any measure. Gustavsson and Nystrom are the only women's or men's basketball players in conference history to win the regular season league title four times, while their 63 regular-season conference wins are by far the most by any women's or men's basketball player in Mountain West history.
CSU led 32-26 at halftime, but UC Davis (25-7) used a 17-point third quarter to pull ahead, 43-42, heading to the final quarter. The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, but ultimately, UC Davis would maintain its one-point edge at the final buzzer. CSU took the lead back immediately to start the fourth quarter, as Myanne Hamm made a three-point on the Rams' first possession. Hannah Tvrdy followed with a three on the next possession, and the Rams led, 48-43, through the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Following the run to start the fourth quarter, the Rams were unable to come up with a field goal for the next four minutes, and the Aggies took the lead back, 50-49, with 5:09 to go. Hamm came up with another big play to retake the lead, as she completed a three-point play to put the Rams up, 52-50, with just under five minutes to go. From that point, the Aggies went on another run, using a jumper, layup and two free throws to take a 56-53 lead with 3:22 remaining. That three-point lead held until the final minute, when Nystrom buried a layup to cut the deficit to 58-57 with 47 seconds to go. The Rams made the final stop they needed, but were unable to convert on their final offensive possession and the score remained 58-57 at the final buzzer.
CSU and UC Davis were knotted up at 16 after one quarter, with Nystrom and Sofie Tryggedsson combining for all 16 Ram points in the opening period. The Rams opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run, scoring on layups by Tvrdy and Hamm, as well as on a jumper by Gustavsson. Although the teams answered back-and-forth throughout the period, Gustavsson tallied four points in the final minute of the second quarter to send the Rams to halftime with a 32-26 lead.
Notably, the Rams held UC Davis' leading scorer, Morgan Bertsch, without a point on Sunday. The Aggies' Dani Nafekh, who entered Sunday's matchup ranked third in the nation in three-point percentage, was held to six points and 0-for-3 shooting from three-point range. Rachel Nagel led UC Davis with 16 points, while each of UC Davis' Kourtney Eaton and Pele Gianotti scored 12 points.
IN THEIR WORDS
Colorado State head coach Ryun Williams
"UC Davis played a heck of a game. They made some big shots and they just made one more play than we did. I am proud of our basketball team. These kids fought tooth-and-nail, every single play, all year long. I'm really proud of (Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson) and where they've brought our program. It stinks to lose today, but these kids went down fighting."
On the flow of the game and the fouls on each side:
"It was an aggressive basketball game. They were aggressive with the drive and they were aggressive in the post-up. We got them in a little foul trouble and they got us in a little foul trouble. We're used to having certain kids on the floor all the time. We pride ourselves in not fouling. We had to adjust. That's just the way the game played out today. I thought UC Davis was really aggressive in that fourth quarter; they really drove it at us and that might've been the difference."
On what the team accomplished this year:
"For their four years, for every single game they played, you can probably count on one hand where they didn't give themselves a chance to win a basketball game. That's impressive. To me, it was an amazing year. There's always disappointment, but it's becoming more painful because our expectations have really risen, and that's a good thing. When your kids expect to win every time they step foot on that floor, that's a really good thing. When they don't, there's disappointment. The fact they had this type of season and gutted out 25 wins, with a really tough non-conference schedule, this was a really, really rewarding season."
On the fans staying around to thank Ellen (Nystrom) and Elin (Gustavsson):
"I think those fans appreciate what this group has done and what these two have done. I thought it was really cool that all the fans came down. They're going to miss watching these two play. I'm going to miss coaching them. They made me a pretty good coach. It'll be weird running out without these two. Now it's time to celebrate, really. To look back and celebrate the really good year, the four years of these two, and where our program has gone. There's a lot to be proud of."
Senior forward Elin Gustavsson
On her career at CSU:
"These four years, I don't know that you can even put it into words. Especially this last year. Our team chemistry has been so good. I'm happy every time I go on the court, in the locker room, training room, weight room, because we're having so much fun together. We're supporting each other. We love playing with each other too. We want everyone to do good, and everyone to develop. This last year has been so much fun, on and off the court."
Senior guard Ellen Nystrom
On her emotions following her final home game:
"We were so close. Of course, we wanted to win the whole thing. That was the goal from the start. This has been the best four years of my life. The stuff that CSU has given us, (helped) us grow as basketball players and as people. It's been amazing."
- Colorado State finishes with 25 wins, tied for the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
- The Rams have won at least 23 games in each of the past four seasons, as well as 15 Mountain West games in each of the past four seasons (including 2016-17).
- The Rams' 15 Mountain West wins ties for the second-most in a single season in program history (2013-14, 2014-15). Seniors Elin Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom were members of each of CSU's teams with 15 conference wins, as well as the 2015-16 squad with an 18-0 conference record.
- CSU finishes the season with 16 wins at home, tied for the third-most home wins in program history.
- CSU ends the season with a .735 win percentage, the 10th-best in a single season in program history.
- Ellen Nystrom finishes her career with 584 assists, by far the most in program history (Becky Hammon, 538 assists) and the fifth-most in Mountain West history.
- Nystrom ends her career with 1,456 points, the ninth-most in program history.
- Nystrom finishes with 877 career rebounds, the third-most in a career in CSU history.
- Nystrom concludes her CSU career with 199 steals, the seventh-most in a career in program history.
- Elin Gustavssno closes her career with 1,463 points, the eighth-most in a career in program history.
- Gustavsson finishes her career with 74 blocks, the seventh-most in a career in program history.
- Nystrom finishes with two of the top three single-season assist totals in CSU history, as her 2016-17 total of 173 ranks third in program history and one assist shy of CSU's second-best total (174 by Becky Hammon in 1998-99). Nystrom set the single-season record with 186 in 2015-16.
- Nystrom's 124 free throws in 2016-17 are the fifth-most in a single season in program history.
- Nystrom's 266 rebounds in 2016-17 are the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
- Gustavsson's 199 field goals made in 2016-17 rank as the ninth-most in a single season in program history.
- Nystrom and Gustavsson finish their careers ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for games started in a career in Mountain West history. Nystrom made 131 starts in her career, while Gustavsson made 130. The record was previously shared by Utah's Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn, who each made 128 starts from 2002-06.
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