In seven games this season, the CSU women’s basketball team has been able to count on the play of its guards to keep it in games.
Unfortunately for the Rams (2-5), there was no savior in Moby Arena on Sunday, as the team struggled to get things going offensively and fell to in-state rival Denver (3-2) 65-53.
The Pioneers were able to put constant pressure on CSU’s star guards Sara Hunter, Kelly Jo Mullaney and Molly Nohr, not surrendering open shots and limiting the trio to just 25 total points.
Head Coach Jen Warden said the team needs to find a way to win even when its guards are struggling to get anything going.
“We went through a myriad of combinations hoping to find an inside player who could catalyze our offense,” Warden said. “We can’t survive on a diet of 16-footers and pull-up jumpers, we just can’t.”
The Rams were led offensively by senior Molly Nohr, who registered 12 points against a Denver defense that wasn’t giving up many. The Rams shot just 29 percent from the field in the second half and 34 percent for the entire game.
“I thought we were really tentative on offense, we just weren’t ready to shoot,” Nohr said. “We just weren’t into it tonight.”
Freshman Kelly Jo Mullaney, whose five total points were 14 shy of her season average, said the team was forcing shots and struggling to find open looks at the basket all night.
“I kind of felt like we weren’t playing as a team tonight,” Mullaney said. “We definitely have the chemistry off the court; we just need to find it on the court.”
In a back-and-forth game that saw 11 lead changes, Denver’s Andie Mason hit back-to-back threes with one minute remaining, capping a 17-7 Denver run and putting a dagger in the Ram’s hopes of a late comeback.
The Pioneers were led by their junior forward Jenna Cole, who finished with 17 points and three rebounds. Denver was also able to get good production out of their deep bench, procuring 20 points from non-starters.
CSU was unable to stay with the Pioneers despite out-scoring them on second chance points at an 18-4 mark and out-rebounding them 43-31.
Junior guard Sara Hunter said that the game was a step backward for the team.
“Once things weren’t clicking from the very beginning we didn’t make any adjustments,” Hunter said. “We need a win really bad right now. It’s going to take more work and we’ve just got to want it more than the other team.”
The Pioneers took advantage of a three-and-a-half minute CSU scoring drought at the end of the first period, rallying from behind with a five point run and sending the Rams into the locker room down 26-25.
Despite the brief run, neither team was able to take control of the game offensively in the first half, as Denver shot just 35 percent from the field and the Rams fired at a 40 percent clip.
Denver was able to capitalize on the Rams’ 13 first-half turnovers, scoring 12 points off the giveaways. CSU finished the game with 18 turnovers.
The Rams also struggled in transition defense and were outscored on fast breaks 12-2. Coach Warden said that she was disappointed with the way that the team played and expects more from them in the weeks to come.
“Today was a disappointment, and that’s probably the first time I have said that at CSU,” Warden said. “This is something that I don’t expect. We missed an opportunity.”
The Rams continue their tour of in-state opponents on Wednesday as they head to Greeley to take on the Northern Colorado Bears. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Women’s basketball beat writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.