Now is the time basketball teams across the nation hope all
their hard work leads to a unified group capable of making a run at
a conference title; now is the time hopes hinge on all the pieces
fitting together; now is crunch time; and for the CSU women’s
basketball team, now it’s all coming together.
In their fifth win in six games, the Rams (14-9, 6-5 Mountain
West) dismantled the Rebels of Nevada-Las Vegas (18-5, 7-3)
Saturday night at Moby Arena in a 79-65 win, which puts them in
fourth place in the conference standings with two games to
CSU shot 50 percent from the field (28-for-56), forced a
season-high 24 turnovers and held the Rebels’ talented perimeter
shooters to a 0-for-11 performance from 3-point territory.
“We didn’t have much of a game plan,” said center Lindsay
Thomas, who was one of five Rams in double figures with 14 points.
“We just wanted to go after it early and ‘D’ it up.”
Defense was the key to CSU’s early lead as the team jumped out
to a 40-22 halftime advantage while forcing 16 first-half
turnovers. The Rams used those turnovers to their advantage,
turning them into scoring opportunities. Guard Vanessa Espinoza had
the hot hand early and the Rams looked to the sophomore to use
“I just felt comfortable out there,” said Espinoza, who had a
team-high 22 points, 14 in the first half. “I owe it all to my
teammates. They found me when I was open and were able to get me
With an 18-point lead at halftime, the Rams seemed in control at
the start of the second half, but a full-court UNLV press coupled
with lackadaisical defense by CSU allowed the Rebels to jump back
into the game.
Five minutes into the second half, UNLV center RanDee Henry, who
scored a team-high 16 points, scored a three-point play and CSU’s
momentum began slipping away; then CSU’s slew of talented freshmen
Freshman Annika Walseth drained a big 3-pointer (her only bucket
of the night) to restore order, put the lead back to 53-36 and
bring the crowd of 1,833 to its feet.
“It’s huge to have freshmen stepping up and making big plays
like that,” said head coach Chris Denker. “Our freshmen are making
big plays for us both offensively and defensively.”
Indeed CSU’s two top freshmen, Walseth and O’Dwyer, combined for
15 points and five rebounds while keeping UNLV’s touted frontcourt
of Henry and Sherry McCracklin at bay.
Turnovers, rebounding failures and an extended scoring drought
allowed UNLV to cut away at the Rams lead, getting as close as
68-59 with less than four minutes to play.
Senior Joy Jenkins quashed any hopes of a Rebel rally with a 3
to put the Rams up 71-59 with 2:15 to go; the Rams’ lead did not go
below double digits the rest of the game.
“We’re fighters,” Espinoza said. “We never got down, we never
The Rams will take that fighter mentality into their game
against Wyoming Friday at Moby and to New Mexico’s Pit in the last
conference game of the regular season on March 6.
“We’re excited to get Wyoming, we’ve got to prepare for that,”
Her backcourt mate, senior Jasai Ferrucho, added, “Personally
I’m excited about playing at The Pit, it will be my last game
With the team coming together, Ferrucho’s last game may not come
for a while.
The good: CSU’s backcourt of Vanessa Espinoza and Jasai Ferrucho
combined for 35 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 14 assists and six
The bad: Little went wrong for CSU, but UNLV had several easy
baskets during a second-half comeback.
The Ugly: 24 turnovers and 0-for-11 3-point shooting are enough
to make any Rebel want to run.