Mar 232003
Authors: Luke Cornish

Moby Arena could hardly contain the emotion as the CSU women’s basketball team played and won their first two games of the women’s National Invitational Tournament.

The Rams beat Montana State 87-74 in the first round and Border War-rivals Wyoming 73-64 in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals of the postseason tournament.

The Rams’ senior-laden team is now just three wins away from lifting the WNIT championship trophy. They will face the winner of the Missouri/Ball State game that will be played tonight at 7 at Missouri.

“I really couldn’t be happier for our girls to be able to go on in the WNIT and keep playing,” CSU head coach Chris Denker said after the Wyoming game.

CSU’s quarterfinal match-up will likely be played on Thursday but it is not yet known whether it will be played at Moby Arena or not. Should Missouri win tonight, it is expected that the Rams will travel there. If Ball State wins, it will likely come to Fort Collins.

“I don’t care who we play in the next round, as long as it’s not another Mountain West team,” Denker said about possibly playing a team he’s faced at least twice already this season.

The game against the Cowgirls was the fourth time the two teams have met this year and the third time in the past three weeks. Like the three games before it, this game saw tough physical play and a high level of intensity.

“We didn’t want our season to end with Wyoming,” senior guard Katie Borton said. “That was always at the back of our minds.”

The Rams knocked the Cowgirls out of the Mountain West Conference Tournament less than two weeks ago and once more have spoiled any postseason play for Wyoming.

“To play a team for the fourth time is very difficult for our girls,” Denker said. “Playing a team that much is boring to begin with and if you throw in the emotion of the games we’ve played, it makes it very hard.”

The victories over the weekend gave CSU 20 wins for the eighth straight season. The Rams will lose four starters at the end of the season but the experience the rest of the team gets from postseason play will be beneficial for the program.

“I think (doing well in the WNIT) is really important for the whole team,” senior center Shannon Strecker said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season and at the moment we’re playing really good basketball. We’re not ready for it to end yet.”

It will be a huge advantage if the Rams get to host the next round of the tournament. CSU is 16-1 when playing at Moby Arena and 4-11 when playing on the road.

“It’s always good to play at Moby,” Strecker said. “We have such good fans and it has been wonderful to play the last two games at home.”

The fact that his team is much more successful in front of the home crowd had not slipped Denker’s attention either.

“Our crowd is awesome,” Denker said. “I really hope the fans realize how much their support means to this team.”

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