Jan 302003
Authors: Reed Saunders

Feels like things are finally getting back to where they belong for CSU women’s basketball.

Following a stretch of losses and internal turmoil, the Rams have run off two consecutive convincing victories over conference foes, evening their Mountain West mark to 2-2. The team will look to continue its winning ways Saturday afternoon when it heads north to Laramie to battle Border-rival Wyoming, who also is 2-2 in conference.

Though the Rams (11-7, 2-2) aren’t yet at the top of their game, the general feeling within the team seems to have done a proverbial 180-degree turn from two weeks ago.

“Our confidence level is definitely different,” said Shannon Strecker, the Rams’ senior center. “Coming off two big wins where we played a good game for 40 entire minutes was big for us.”

The game, which tips off at 2 p.m. at Wyoming’s Auditorium Arena, will mark the beginning of a three-game road swing for the Rams, who are getting accustomed to being away from home.

CSU has played just two of seven games in the 2003 calendar year in Moby Arena. The road has not been kind to the Rams thus far this season, where the Rams hold a meager 2-6 mark.

“We talked before the New Mexico and Air Force games how we wanted to get on a roll and use those home games as a springboard,” head coach Chris Denker said. “Hopefully the momentum and confidence we gained from those wins will carry over when we’re on the road.”

Indeed, the Rams’ wins over New Mexico and Air Force were statement wins. For CSU, a team that had been developing a reputation as a “one-half” team, playing games full of streaks and lulls, putting together two of their most complete games of the season couldn’t have come at a better time.

Looking close to surrendering after back-to-back blowout losses at BYU and Utah and the departure of veteran point guard Liz English, the wins showed these Rams had not yet begun to fight.

That fight is far from over, however, and will continue when the Rams and Cowgirls resume their Border War, a rivalry which has been mostly a one-sided affair in recent years with the Rams winning the last 12 contests between the two schools.

Still, the Rams are focusing more on this particular win than any current winning streak.

“We don’t think about things like how many straight we’ve won against them because that’s when you can get in trouble,” said senior forward Ashley Augspurger. “The whole Border War deal is big in any sport. We’re just focusing on what we need to do to win.”

The Rams spent a good portion of practice this week working on breaking a full-court press, something that allowed Wyoming to be successful last weekend.

“We’re not concerned with their press, but we know we have to be ready to deal with it,” Strecker said. “(Full court pressure) is how they really hurt New Mexico and

Air Force.”

A key to breaking that press will be the play of Vanessa Espinoza and Jasai Ferrucho, two of CSU’s main ball-handlers who, thus far, have left little doubt about their ability to fill English’s shoes.

Wyoming is led by senior forward Carrie Bacon, who leads the team with 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and who also was named the Mountain West Player of the Week last week.

In spite of Bacon’s good numbers, Augspurger said the Rams won’t be focusing on her or any other Cowgirl in particular.

“Our defensive schemes are never about stopping one particular player,” Augspurger said. “We know what she can do, but they have a few others who can hurt you just as much.”

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