DENVER — After its best start to the season since 2003, the CSU women’s basketball team was humbled by the University of Denver on Wednesday night, which handed the Rams their first loss of the year 68-55.
The majority of the game was dictated by the play of Pioneer junior guard Britteni Rice, who set a career-high with 24 points. After hitting her stride with five minutes remaining, leading a DU (1-1) run that gave the Pioneers a two-point halftime lead, Rice couldn’t seem to miss and finished the night shooting nine of 14 from the floor.
“A lot of my shots came from my teammates setting me screens at the post and in and out passes,” Rice said. “The majority of what I got was from my teammates, so I can’t really take any credit. Coach (Erik) Johnson did a good job of running plays.”
The Rams started the night with hot shooting from sophomore guard Kim Mestdagh, who scored the game’s first eight points with two three-pointers and a 12-footer. Denver quickly stopped CSU’s run, tying the game at 10.
Mestdagh scored 12 of the Rams’ first 14 points, but after picking up her second foul midway through the first half, she sat until after halftime.
“I was kind of frustrated with that second foul because that was the second game in a row I had to sit early in the first half. It got to me,” said Mestdagh about her foul trouble.
CSU (2-1) stayed in the game until the 6:51 mark of the second half when two free throws by Rice started a 9-0 run for the Pioneers to extend their lead to 13. The Rams only hit four field goals in the final 10 minutes, three of which came from forward Chatilla van Grinsven, who finished the night with 16 points.
Rams’ head coach Kristen Holt said her team froze during their shooting slump.
“I felt we just went into panic mode,” Holt said. “We thought ‘OK, we’re behind, we have to force shots … ‘ (when that happens) you tend to go away from what you want. We’re a team who has a lot to learn.”
The Rams are off until Sunday, when they head to Indiana to face Valparaiso.
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.