Not often will a team play both its worst and best basketball of a season in the same game.
Such was the case, however, for the CSU women’s basketball team Saturday.
The Rams, the West’s No. 7 seed, fell to 10th-seeded Tulane, 73-69, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
CSU’s first half against the Green Wave was as forgettable as any the Rams have endured this season. They shot an anemic 25.8 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 25-13.
After falling behind by 27 points early in the second half – CSU’s largest deficit of the season /_” the Rams staged a furious rally to cut the deficit to three, 68-65, on a three-pointer by sophomore forward Joy Jenkins with 1:40 to play.
The Green Wave, however, steadied their game and managed to hold on for the four-point win. The Rams ended their season with a mark of 24-7 while Tulane improves to 24-10 and moves on to the second round.
For the Rams, coming back so strong after playing so poorly was bittersweet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team play any harder than this group did in the last six or seven minutes,” head coach Tom Collen said. “I’m proud they never quit. I’m just disappointed to be walking out of here with a loss.”
While CSU struggled to find any offensive flow in the first half, Tulane seemed to score at will.
Forward Gwen Slaughter tallied 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting, while Britt Themann came off the bench to add 11. Both players helped Tulane to an 11-0 run, which erased CSU’s last lead of 9-8 and allowed the Green Wave to head to the locker room with a 35-20 halftime advantage.
“I don’t know if we can play any better than we did in the first 30 minutes,” Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said. “We were clicking on all cylinders and we maintained that for a long time.”
The loss ended the career of CSU’s lone senior, Angie Gorton, whose game-high 16 points spearheaded the Rams second-half rally.
“We reached a point in time where all of a sudden everything was going right after everything was going wrong,” Gorton said of CSU’s rally. “Everyone on the team stepped up.”
The loss may have been hard to swallow for Gorton, but she made CSU history before the game even started. Besides finishing her career ranked in the program’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots, she is the only athlete /_” male or female – in CSU history to play in the postseason all four of her seasons.
Gorton and other Rams were reduced to tears after a loss that ended an outstanding season, one that included wins over defending national champion Notre Dame and the University of Colorado, as well as the program’s first Mountain West Conference title.
“I definitely will remember the last six minutes and not the first 34,” Gorton said of her final game. “My teammates gave it every thing they had. That’s what I’ll always remember.”