By Reed Saunders
There is life after Liz after all.
The CSU women’s basketball team proved once and for all it can not only survive, but also prosper without injured starting point guard Elizabeth English with a sweep of Utah and Brigham Young University on the road – something that had never been done in school history.
Now the Rams return home with momentum and confidence as they look to remain unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference and continue their three-game winning streak when San Diego State University and University of Nevada at Las Vegas come to town Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
“We’ve reached a point where we’re not mourning over Liz anymore,” said head coach Tom Collen, whose team takes a 13-3 record into Thursday’s 7 p.m. tip with the Aztecs. “Our players believe we can be a great team with what we have. That’s the most important thing.”
As they begin their home conference schedule, the Rams will once again be counting on the leadership of senior guard Angie Gorton, who is coming off a season-high 24 points in a triple overtime win at Utah last weekend.
Gorton and junior forward Ashley Augspurger make for a two-headed scoring monster – averaging a combined 28.9 points a game. Since a Dec. 28 game with Eastern Michigan, the pair has taken turns leading the team in scoring.
Though the Utah swing was successful, both Augspurger and Gorton agrees there is room for improvement before this weekend.
“We can rebound better and we had some key lapses in defense,” Augspurger said. “We need to communicate more on defense.”
The Rams will not be receiving rebounding help from junior center Shannon Strecker this weekend. Strecker, who averages 6.4 rebounds a game, was expected to return to action this weekend after suffering a shoulder injury against Utah. Following two days of practice this week, it was determined Strecker would not be available.
Instead, the Rams will look to starting center Lisa Narkiewicz and sophomore forward Joy Jenkins for strength on the front line. Jenkins recorded a career-high seven rebounds against Utah.
Looking to get the ball inside should only benefit the Rams on offense. CSU is 11-0 this season when post players combine for a double-double in scoring and rebounding.
The Rams’ two opponents this weekend have very little in common, which makes preparation a more difficult task.
“With Utah and BYU, both teams were very similar so we could prepare the same way all week,” Collen said. “San Diego State is big on pressure and man defense, where UNLV is a big, strong rebounding team. That’s two completely different looks, and to prepare for both games at once is a challenge.”
UNLV has been the stronger of the two teams, jumping to a 14-1 start and sitting with the Rams atop the MWC standings with a 2-0 mark.
The Rebels are led by standout senior forward Linda Frolich, who averages 21.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and junior guard Constance Jinks, who averages 17.1 points of her own.
“Frolich and Jinks are probably the two top WNBA prospects in our league,” Collen said. “Many want to look at UNLV as the bigger game, but history tells us we can’t overlook San Diego State.”
On top of improving its record, CSU is eager to show which team is the best in the Mountain West.
“It’s a challenge knowing UNLV has a better record,” Gorton said. “It’s more motivation than on paper, they look better than us.”
Tip-off time for the UNLV game is set for Saturday at 2 p.m.n