The CSU women's basketball team did something they hadn't done all season on Tuesday – played in a close game that was decided in the final minutes of play. The Rams, sparked by four, second-half 3-pointers by freshman guard Sara Hunter, erased an 8-point halftime deficit to beat the Pepperdine Waves 64-58.
The win improved the team's overall record to 4-1 and its home record to 4-0. The Rams will be looking to stretch their home-unbeaten streak to 5-0 when they play host to the Texas-Pan American Lady Broncs at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Moby Arena.
Hunter said she thinks that the Rams' crunchtime victory will give them increased confidence when playing against UTPA and other future opponents.
"(When) you play games where you are supposed to win, it is not as fun," Hunter said. "To have a close game like that was a good experience for us."
Unlike the Rams, UTPA are yet to feel what it is like to play in a close game this season. The Lady Broncs will enter tomorrow's game with a 3-3 record. Their three wins against North Carolina-Asheville, Texas A&M-International and Southwestern Assemblies of God were by an average of 28.3 points per game. UTPA's three loses against Marshall, Oral Roberts and Tulsa were by an average of 20.7 points per game.
Through the first five games on the season, the Rams have been led by their junior, frontcourt combo of center Lindsay Thomas and forward Melissa Dennett. Thomas is averaging a double-double of 13.2 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. Dennett is leading the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and is second on the team in rebounds with 9.4 rebounds per game. Earlier this week, Thomas was named the Mountain West Conference player of the week for her performances against Notre Dame, Iona and Alabama-Birmingham. Thomas received player of the week honors the previous week.
Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Rams have played like a tougher and more experienced team compared to past years, according to Thomas.
"We are definitely mentally tough this year," Thomas said. "(Also) we're a much more experienced team."
Despite the Rams' increased experience and improved toughness, CSU head coach Chris Denker said that in order for CSU to continue to build upon its successful start, the team needs to improve on certain areas of its game, including its defense, ball handling and offensive flow.
"We need to get back to basics on defense and (improve) our turnover situation," Denker said. "We kind of got away from our transition game a bit (against Pepperdine). We need to be able to run the court and get those easy buckets."