CSU women’s basketball experienced a little of everything over the break, on and off the court.
The good came in the form of two solid wins, including at Air Force to start Mountain West conference play. The not-so-good came in five losses, including a fifty-point setback at TCU.
But, unfortunately for the Rams, all of the on-court results were overshadowed by troubles away from the court involving the suspensions of four freshmen.
On Friday, Rams starters Kelly Jo Mullaney and Emily Neal, along with reserves Raysha Ritter and Britney Stirling, were suspended from the team indefinitely due to a prank pulled on sophomore teammate Kelly Finley on Jan. 8.
The suspensions came on the eve of the team’s final game of the break, a 73-42 home loss to conference foe New Mexico.
CSU took the court against the Lobos with just eight players in uniform and were clearly mismatched.
“I felt like the team let it go for the 40 minutes we were on the floor,” said senior guard Molly Nohr of the suspensions. “The feeling of the game wasn’t the best. It was hard, but we fought.”
New Mexico shot 50 percent from the three point arc, including guard Katie Montgomery shooting 6-8 from three in a career-high 22-point performance. Fellow guard Julie Briody added four three-pointers and 16 points for the Lobos (11-6, 1-3).
CSU (6-10, 1-3) was led by senior guard Molly Nohr’s 10 points, as the Rams shot just 31 percent from the field.
“I really liked our defensive effort,” said Head Coach Jen Warden. “I don’t know if you’ll get a lot of teams that shoot eight for 12 from three in the first half.”
Just two days before falling to New Mexico, the Rams suffered another home conference loss to Utah.
Using a 13-3 second half run, the Utes pulled away for a 73-57 win. Junior guard Sara Hunter led the Rams with 16 points while guard Morgan Warburton had a game-high 20 points for Utah.
CSU suffered an 86-36 loss at TCU on Jan 6, the worst defeat for the Rams since a 47-point setback against Duke last season.
TCU held the Rams to 20 percent shooting from the field and a season-low 16 points in the first half. MWC leading scorer Adrianne Ross led the Horned Frogs with 26 points.
CSU guard Emily Neal, in just her second start, led the Rams with eight points, and guard Sara Hunter added seven in the loss.
CSU defeated Air Force in the conference opener for both teams on Jan. 4. Senior Molly Nohr had a career-high 22-point performance in the Rams’ 65-56 road win.
Outside of conference play, the Rams defeated Oklahoma Panhandle State 76-64 on Dec. 17 to extend a three-game winning streak.
But that streak was snapped on Dec. 21 when the Rams traveled to face sixth-ranked Connecticut. The Huskies, winners of four of the last seven NCAA championships, shot nearly 60 percent from the field in a 93-58 win.
CSU, who currently sits second-to-last in the MWC standings, is faced with a tough road ahead, especially with recent off-court issues.
“I’m confident we’ll survive,” said Nohr. “It’s a hard blow but we’re not going let this take away from our season.”
Hunter agreed, saying that no opponent will care what has happened to the Rams off the court when the game clock starts.
“I’m sure (New Mexico) opened the paper today thinking, ‘what?'” Hunter said. “But it’s basketball, and they could care less. It’s wins or losses, or it’s the coach’s head – that’s how this business works.”
Up next for the Rams are two conference road tests against Brigham Young Thursday at 7 p.m. and San Diego State on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Women’s basketball beat writer Jeff Dillon can be reached email@example.com.
1. Utah 4-0 11-6
2. TCU 3-0 13-4
3. BYU 3-0 12-4
4. UNLV 2-2 8-8
5. Wyoming 1-2 10-5
6. San Diego State 1-2 8-6
7. New Mexico 1-3 11-6
8. CSU 1-3 6-10
9. Air Force 0-4 4-11