Forget Wyoming. Utah looks to be the new big rival of Ram basketball.
A 87-77 triple-overtime road victory against Utah on Jan. 17 was arguably the most exciting game this year for the CSU women’s team. Now Utah comes to Moby Arena tonight to start the second half of the Mountain West Conference schedule.
The game will not only be Utah’s chance to exact revenge for its home loss to CSU, but also an opportunity for the Utes to try to turn around a disappointing season.
Utah is usually a top conference team, but has struggled this year with a 3-4 conference record, tied for fifth in the standings.
“They lost five of their top players, so they are trying to regroup,” CSU head coach Tom Collen said. “They are still as well coached as any team in the country.”
Utah senior guard Erin Gibbons leads the team with 15.5 points a game, and senior forward Lauren Beckham is also having a solid year, averaging 14.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.
The Utah game almost a month ago was just the beginning of what has been a tough conference run for CSU. The team’s 6-1 conference record misrepresents the competitiveness of the conference. CSU has not won a conference game by double-digits since that Utah game, and lost to New Mexico on the road on Jan. 31.
“I’ve said for the last two years the Mountain West Conference is the best conference in the West,” Collen said.
These close games have been good experiences for the players because they have been able to keep the season in perspective, according to Collen.
Injuries have plagued the Rams in the early part of the schedule, but those problems seem to be slowly going away. After getting junior forward Shannon Strecker back last week, the team hopes to welcome junior forward Lisa Narkiewicz back for the Utah game. Narkiewicz had been suffering with a sprained ankle.
Senior guard Angie Gorton continues to lead the team in scoring with 13.9 point a game. Getting Narkiewicz and Strecker back will help to energize the interior defense and offense, providing more opportunities for junior forward Ashley Augspurger and guard Jackie Campbell on the perimeter.
Utah won last year’s game at Moby by the score of 67-59, and has generally dominated the matches between the two teams. This year was the first year since 1998 that CSU won in Utah and the Rams hope to start a new trend by sweeping both games from the Utes.
Tonight’s game is televised on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain; tip time is 6:30 p.m. n