BOULDER, Colo. – For most of the CSU women’s basketball team’s first game on the road, the Rams looked like a team in search of a home.
The Colorado Buffaloes swarming defense forced the Rams to appear tentative from the beginning and, though they showed signs of regrouping, CSU never appeared fully comfortable away from Moby Arena in a 65-51 loss to the University of Colorado at the Coors Events Center on Thursday night.
The loss drops the Rams’ season mark to 5-2, while the Buffaloes improve to 7-1.
The Buffaloes were relentless on defense from the beginning, forcing the Rams to appear tentative for most of the night on offense and never letting CSU find an offensive rhythm.
“Overall it was a great defensive effort,” said CU coach Ceal Barry, whose Buffaloes defeated the Rams for the first time in four years. “Going in, we felt CSU was a great offensive team that could do a lot of things. We felt we needed to put great ball pressure and use our athleticism to take them out of their rhythm and I felt we did a great job at that tonight.”
Physical play defined the contest. CSU struggled to find open looks due to CU’s intense defense, while the Rams used double-teams to frequently tie-up CU center Tera Bjorklund and force the Buffaloes to get most of their points from outside.
“I thought overall it was a very physical game,” said Liz English, the Rams’ senior point guard. “There was a lot of fouling going on, but that was on both sides.”
Neither team put on a strong shooting display and it was a defensive struggle for most of the contest. CU finished the game shooting 42.3 percent, while the Rams put up a 36.5 shooting percentage, en route to a season-low 51 points.
Senior forward Katie Borton led the Rams with 11 points on a 5-7 shooting night. Her performance was about the only offensive performance of positive note for the Rams.
Fellow senior Ashley Augspurger, the Rams’ leading scorer, was smothered for much of the contest and never appeared comfortable. The Lakewood, Colo. native finished with 4 points on 2-12 shooting, including 0-6 from three-point range. Augspurger had been averaging 16.8 points per game before Thursday’s contest.
“I give credit to their defense, they got in our faces and we just didn’t handle it well,” Augpurger said. “They’ve always been a great defensive team, we just didn’t respond well tonight.”
The Buffaloes were led by Bjorklund, who finished with a game-high 14 points and was a constant force in the middle for CU. Colorado’s constant ball movement time and again freed up Buffalo shooters for open looks.
“When my teammates are hitting the open shots from the outside, it really helps me to get shots down low,” Bjorklund said. “They did a pretty good job double-teaming me, but I felt we were able to work around it well.”
Trailing 24-19 at halftime, the Rams came out with more intensity in the second half. CSU used a 7-0 run midway through the second half to knot the score at 35. But the Rams were never able to take the lead, and the Buffs used a quick 5-0 run of their own to regain a 40-35 advantage.
Every time the Rams came close to taking the lead, CU answered with a big shot. CSU tied the score three times in the game, but were never able to overcome the Buffaloes, thanks in large part to the effort of Sabrina Scott. The Buffaloes’ forward finished the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The game marked the first shift in the rivalry’s dominance since the teams resumed their confrontation in 1999. Even though many Buffaloes said the Rams still held control of the rivalry having won three of the last four, the Rams had only the most recent meeting on their minds.
“As far as I’m concerned, the only (game) that matters is right now,” English said. “The atmosphere wasn’t tough, we just made it tough on ourselves by not playing well.”
The Rams will return to action.