While playing the No. 1 team in the Mountain West Conference could be seen as a negative, the CSU women's basketball team hopes that the home crowd this weekend will bring it a little fortune.
The Rams (14-11, 5-7) will finish off regular season play with a game today at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena versus New Mexico (21-4, 10-2 Mountain West Conference) and a game against Air Force (7-18, 2-10) at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
"The benefit of the home crowd will be great," said sophomore guard Molly Nohr, who had a career-high 10 points in Saturday's loss to Utah. "They're always supportive of us and get us going."
Closing out the season at home is something the players seem excited about.
"We need both of these wins," junior forward Melissa Dennett said. "We want to go out with two wins going to the tournament. I'd much rather finish our season at home."
Getting two wins is important for CSU in order to get a good tournament seed, but the Lobos also have a lot at stake. They are tied for the lead with Utah for the conference title.
"From their standpoint, they're trying to win the conference," said head coach Chris Denker.
On Feb. 5, the Rams experienced the shooting power of the Lobos firsthand in their 75-49 loss.
New Mexico matched a season low with seven turnovers while scoring 25 points off CSU's 21 turnovers.
The long ball also hurt the Rams. Six Lobos hit at least one 3-point basket and three of the six had at least two baskets made. Sophomore guard Katie Montgomery was 4-for-8 behind the arch.
"We need to stop their guard," Nohr said. "They also have deep 3-point shooters."
While the Rams were held to 20.8 percent shooting in the first half of that
game, the team has proven it can put points on the board. Last week the Rams scored 50 points in the second half, despite the loss to Utah.
"That was big for us, even in a loss," Denker said. "It just showed our kids they can score."
Dennett said she has seen a change since the game.
"We've already seen it carry over to practice," Dennett said.
Dennett leads the Rams in points and rebounds per game with 14.3 and 8.2, respectively. Junior guard Vanessa Espinoza leads the team in assists per game with 3.2.
Freshman forward Dionne Marsh leads the Lobos with 11.5 points per game and senior forward Lindsey Arndt is second with 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Rebounding and defense will again be important to keep the Lobos in check.
"They pressed us a lot," Denker said. "They shot the 3 well. They just
hammered us on the boards."
Not having to travel in the season's final week could be a factor in the energy CSU can bring to the conference tournament next week.
"We want to go into the tournament and do some damage," Denker said. "The tournament is a quick turnaround and traveling makes it pretty quick and tough.
"Last year we didn't have that opportunity, finishing on the road."