DENVER – It took the full band and five sniffs of smelling salts to wake up Vanessa Espinoza on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.
The girl was absolutely unconscious.
After seeing a 13-point lead reduced to a mere six with three minutes left, Espinoza connected with her fifth consecutive three-point shot of the night as she was fouled.
After the ensuing made free throw attempt the lead was back to 10, and the Rams were headed on their way to a 69-58 win.
"It's really nice knowing we can go to a player and know she's gonna get the job done," said junior Molly Nohr who finished with 15 points. "I have all the confidence in the world in Vanessa. She's kind of our heart out there."
After trading the lead back in forth for the better part of the first half, Espinoza sparked a CSU run after hitting a driving layup, connecting on her first three and creating a steal on defense all within a minute's time. The Rams found themselves with a nine-point lead at the half that they would never surrender.
"Espinoza is playing with so much confidence and spirit right now," said head coach Jen Warden. "Of course it didn't hurt that she was 5-5 from the three-point line."
The Rams found another hero in an unlikely source when forward Marilyn Moulton tied her career-high in points with 10 in the first half. Moulton was perfect from the field and the foul line, while only recording 17 minutes in the contest.
For the fans this may have been a pre-decided game over the weakest team in the conference. For the Rams and their departing seniors, it meant a lot more.
"For those seniors, LT (Lindsay Thomas) and Diesel (Melissa Dennett) we have come in here every year and we're one and done," said Espinoza, the final senior on the team.
"That's always on the back of our mind. We're feeling really confident right now."
The team will have to be feeling confident with the monumental task of taking on the 19th ranked team in the state today at 6 p.m.
The Rams seem to be up to the challenge.
"Every year we come here and we lose," said Espinoza. "This year we are determined to do more. We're ready to go after BYU tomorrow."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at email@example.com