For the CSU women’s basketball team, tonight’s game against New Mexico is all about moving on.
Following a tumultuous weekend that included back-to-back blowout road defeats, and cumulated with the departure of senior point guard Elizabeth English, the Rams are ready to focus on the future.
“It’s kind of like we’re starting over,” said redshirt freshman point guard Vanessa Espinoza, who likely will start in place of English when the Lobos come to Moby Arena. “This game is huge. Being 0-2 in conference, we’ve got to prove to everyone that we’re OK and we’re still a force in this league.”
Moby Arena might jut be the perfect square one for the Rams (9-7, 0-2 MWC) to start from. CSU has an impressive 18-3 home record in Mountain West play, including nine in a row, dating back to last season and 10 in a row against New Mexico all-time.
That stat bodes well for the Rams, who are in danger of going 0-3 in conference play for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
“Playing at Moby is always an advantage for us,” said senior center Shannon Strecker. “We’re all ready to get back to playing our game. This is a game that could help us get our confidence back.”
Despite being 0-2, head coach Chris Denker isn’t about to call tonight’s contest a must-win situation.
“Part of the problem is people have been spoiled by all the success this program has had,” Denker said. “This game is a chance for us to really explode and get on a roll. We’re not approaching it as a must-win, because that makes it sound like we lose and our season is over.”
If the Rams are to get back to their winning ways, they’ll have to contain New Mexico’s star senior center Jordan Adams. Adams leads the Lobos (11-3, 1-0 MWC) in scoring (17.4 points/game) and rebounding (6.6 per game), and also has a conference-best 30 blocked shots.
In addition to Adams, the Rams will have to slow point guard Mandi Moore and forward Lindsay Arndt, who averaged 13.5 points against the Rams in the teams’ two meetings last year.
But Denker and the Rams are battling more than just New Mexico tonight. CSU is a team desperately needing to rediscover its confidence and get through what has been perhaps the roughest stretch the program has seen in several years.
“Our team is going through a lot right now,” Denker said. “We’re going out there to win, but I don’t think it’s right to just focus on the end result of a game, the win or the loss. You have to look at the team, the attitude, the effort.
“All those things are in place when we practice. We just have to make it happen in the game.”
Players said their defense and rebounding need to improve, but the key will be getting off to a good start and not losing confidence when tough times arise.
“We have to have confidence and that comes from doing all the little things better than we did last weekend – rebounding better, being aggressive on defense,” Strecker said. “But we also have to have confidence and we can’t get down on ourselves. If New Mexico goes on a run, we can’t hang our heads. It’s up to us to get tough and come out of it.”