It’s been a rough ride this season for the CSU women’s basketball team, losing 26 games, but loss No. 26 Wednesday night was almost bittersweet, as the Rams fell to the 15th-ranked Utah Utes 63-58.
Maybe it was the tie-dyed warm-ups that senior Sara Hunter picked out to reflect her “hippie” lifestyle on Senior Night.
Whatever the reason, it was a night of almost’s and warm feelings for the Rams and the 1,258 in attendance, as CSU kept the game within arms’ reach for all 40 minutes thanks much in part to Hunter’s 21 points and Juanise Cornell’s double-double.
“We’ve had this all year, y’all have seen how we played against Wyoming here and they were ranked.” Junior Amaka Uzomah said. “But I think it was also sparked by Senior Night and everyone has to come out and play with heart.”
“I think we’re capable of doing this every game and it wasn’t just a fluke that we were staying with them,” freshman forward Elle Queen said.
There was a feeling in the Moby air all night that this could be the Mountain West Conference’s biggest upset of the season. From the Rams’ 6-0 lead to start the game to the 10-point deficit at the half, CSU put 100 percent into this basketball game.
“This was the best game we’ve played all season.” Cornell said. “I don’t think we’ve ever hit our shots as consistently as we did today . thirteen for twenty isn’t amazing from the free throw line, but it’s better than how we have been playing.”
However, it was the seven missed free-throws by CSU that plagued the Rams in the end, as Utah was a perfect 15 for 15 at the line.
CSU worked an eight-point deficit with 6:12 left in the game to a tie three and a half minutes later thanks to an 8-0 run.
Everyone in Moby Arena was feeling things might finally go the Rams’ way, but a steal and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Utah’s Morgan Warburton with 39 seconds remaining to break the 58-all tie sent a dagger into the hearts of Ram faithful.
On the next possession, Queen was forced to take a desperation 3 as the shot clock expired, which resulted in an airball. The Rams were forced to foul Warburton again, and she hit both free throws of the one-and-one to give Utah the victory.
“I’d love to see them awarded after this, I imagined myself after the game telling them, ‘well you picked the one to win,’ but I felt like, I don’t know, it was a coming of age tonight,” Rams coach Jen Warden said.
Despite the turnout of the season, Hunter is thankful to have played in a place like Fort Collins and is happy that some fans support the Rams no matter which way the wind is blowing.
“I’m going to miss all of the same faces who come to our games every day no matter who we are playing,” Hunter said. “It didn’t hit me really until the last time we went into the locker room, really, even with all the hype. But it’s a great community and a great place to play.”
Sports writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.