A simple dilemma awaits the CSU women’s basketball team in Waco, Texas, tonight: Cure the road woes and get a victory at Baylor, or see the season end.
The Rams, who carry a meager 3-10 record on the road this season, will get one last chance to prove they can win away from Moby Arena tonight in the biggest game of their season in the WNIT semifinals against Baylor.
The Lady Bears (23-10) represent the second consecutive Big 12 foe for CSU (21-12), which defeated Missouri at Moby on Thursday night, 62-61, to earn a berth in the semifinals.
It is expected to be the Rams’ last road trip of the season (should they win, they will likely host the championship game) and they are looking at it as an opportunity to finally prove they can win on the road.
“We have not been a good road team and this gives us a chance to rectify that,” head coach Chris Denker said. “We feel we’re playing good right now, but we have a chance to go on the road and take another step.”
The Rams have been playing good basketball of late … at Moby Arena, site of their last three games. All season long, the Rams have seen a Jekyll-and-Hyde effect take over on the road.
In games away from home, CSU has rarely played with the same confidence and intensity they show at Moby, especially in the early minutes of contests.
“If you go out early and get down on the road, it’s so hard to battle back,” said Ram senior Katie Borton. “We’ve talked about huddling up a lot, making sure we’re together on everything, keeping our hopes and confidence up all the time. We want to prove we can win on the road.”
If the Rams are to come through with a win in the biggest road game of their season, they will have to weather yet another storm of physical play. Most of Baylor’s production comes from their two young, physical post players – sophomore Steffanie Blackmon and freshman Sophia Young.
Blackmon leads the Lady Bears and ranks sixth in the Big 12 in scoring with 17.9 points a game, while Young ranks second on the team in scoring (13.9) and leads the Big 12 in rebounds, pulling down 9.5 a game.
Ram senior Shannon Strecker, the Rams’ leading rebounder and most consistent post scorer, says the physical nature of the Rams’ recent opponents doesn’t bother her.
“I really don’t mind a physical game,” Strecker said. “Sometimes it gets a little tiring, but we know that if they’re coming out and being physical with us, we’re just going to be physical right back.”
The winner of Monday’s game will face the winner of the other semifinal game between Auburn and Creighton for the WNIT Championship. Should CSU defeat Baylor, the Rams would be the likely host for that championship game. An enticing thought, but one the Rams are tempered in enjoying.
“We’ve mentioned it a little bit. It’s definitely more of an incentive to beat Baylor,” Strecker said. “But at the same time we can’t afford to look too far ahead.”
Regardless of the outcome, the Rams’ postseason success has been the silver lining to a very memorable season. Although, CSU will do everything it can to come home with a win.
“It’s been so great just to be able to keep this going. If we could get the chance to come back here and play at Moby Arena one more time, I can’t even tell you (how exciting that would be),” Borton said. “I can’t think of a much better way to end the season and my career than playing here in front of our fans.”
Look for Collegian coverage of the CSU-Baylor game on collegian.com