Looking to get back on track after losing nine of its last 10 games, the CSU women’s basketball team headed south to New Mexico to take on the red-hot New Mexico Lobos.
But, like a bad first date on Valentine’s Day, this one just wasn’t meant to be.
In front of 8,700 screaming Lobos fans the Rams dropped their second game in a row and their tenth of the last 11, losing 77-66.
With the win, New Mexico (18-7, 8-4) moves into fourth place in the conference. CSU (7-17, 2-10) stays in eighth place, second to last in the Mountain West.
After trailing by as many as 14 points, the Rams were able to pull the game within four with just 5:14 left in the second half. Playing with three players in foul trouble and center Marilyn Moulton fouled out, CSU could not keep up with the Lobos down the stretch.
Riding a 13-4 run spurred by seven points from guard Julie Briody, New Mexico built up what would turn out to be an insurmountable 11-point lead.
Head coach Jen Warden told the CSU Sports Radio Network she was proud of the way her team fought despite the outcome.
“When you can continuously go back into the locker room and say ‘that is the best that we have played to date,’ that is a great feeling,” Warden said.
Briody would lead the Lobos statistically, finishing with 26 points and six rebounds. Guard Katie Montgomery scored 15 points and pulled down 8 rebounds, while forward Timi E-Nunu finished with 11 points and five boards.
The Rams had stand-out games from junior guard Sara Hunter and freshman center Nya Mason. Hunter was deadly accurate from three-point land all night, finishing with 26 total points including five threes. She also added six rebounds and dished out seven assists. Hunter has scored in double figures in six straight games, a personal high for her.
Mason finished the game with a career-high 14 points, while pulling down three rebounds and registering two blocks.
After the game, Hunter said the team’s effort throughout the game was what impressed her the most.
“For the first time we played hard for the full 40 minutes,” Hunter said. “Hopefully we can gain some momentum from this.”
As a team, CSU finished the game with 17 turnovers, 12 of which came in the first half. They were out rebounded 27-35, but shot a steady 47 percent from the field.
The Rams struggled out of the gate, losing the tip and proceeding to allow seven New Mexico points before getting on the board with 14:40 left in the half. In those first five minutes CSU was 0-6 from the field and committed four unforced turnovers.
The Rams were able to battle their way back into the game thanks to back to back threes from Hunter and McFarland, taking a 17-16 lead with 9:32 left in the first period.
The teams traded baskets for the next five minutes until the Lobos used three quick Ram fouls to jump start an 11-4 run, closing out the half with a 37-28 lead.
Warden said that if the team is able to continue to put out this kind of effort it will see things turning in its favor.
“This team has a couple of wins ahead of us,” Warden said. “We just need to extend our effort and those wins are going to come.”
The Rams will be back in Fort Collins Saturday to take on the first place Brigham Young Cougars. Tip off is set for 2 p.m.
Women’s basketball beat writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.