The old saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.”
For the CSU women’s basketball team, home is where the wins have come and where the hope for resurrecting their season lies.
Nine of the Rams’ (11-10, 2-5 MWC) 11 victories this season have come at home. Don’t think too many Rams are disappointed to be back at Moby.
“It’s fabulous to be home and playing,” said freshman center Lindsay Thomas. “We had a lot of road games over Christmas and a lot in conference so far. It’s going to be wonderful to have five of the last seven at home.”
The Rams begin the most important stretch of their season with the first of those five home games tonight against the league-leading Utah Utes.
Utah boasts the conference’s only perfect record thus far (17-3, 7-0 MWC) and is riding a wave of confidence into Moby Arena.
Some might think the Rams’ confidence has fallen drastically over the last two weeks. Yet, despite having dropped three straight conference games and finding themselves in seventh place in the league they won outright one season ago, the team remains in good spirits.
“This team doesn’t feel like we’re down,” senior forward Ashley Augspurger said. “We know we have the talent, it’s just a matter of putting the little things together. It’s really not difficult remaining positive.”
Though the Rams have won three of the last four meetings with the Utes at Moby, Utah looked impressive in dominating the Rams earlier this season in Salt Lake City, 73-50.
“Utah played really hard, they do a lot of things well,” Thomas said. “We just couldn’t match their intensity that day. It’s tough going to play at their place.”
Augspurger said a lengthy stay on the road helped contribute to the Rams’ demise in Salt Lake.
“I don’t think our focus was there and that was basically the last stretch of what was four straight weeks on the road,” Augspurger said. “Not that that’s any excuse for how poorly we played, but I think fatigue might have figured in.”
Also figuring in to Utah’s success was the offensive performance of sophomore guard Sarah Thorburn and freshman forward Kim Smith. The duo combined for 46 of the Utes 73 points that day including eight three-pointers.
New Mexico was able to slow Utah slightly last week using a spread zone defense to get a hand in the face of long-range bombers. The Rams have been working on a zone defense in practice and may employ it to try and slow Utah’s big guns.
“They have a lot of good outside shooters, but Thorburn and Smith account for the bulk of their offense,” Augspurger said. “It’s going to take a combination of people really taking pride in defense, and at the same time knowing your team is behind you to help if you get beat.”
While the Rams will get one player back for the Utah game, they will still be shorthanded.
Junior guard Jasai Ferrucho returns to the lineup for the Rams after sitting out the UNLV game following her ejection for fighting against San Diego State Thursday night.
Sophomore guard Ashley Venekamp, however, will not be active for the Rams Thursday as she is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Team sources said Venekamp will be out indefinitely.
Following their matchup with the Utes, the Rams will welcome BYU to Moby Arena Saturday afternoon for a nationally televised contest with the Cougars.