Mar 102004
 
Authors: Joelle Milholm

DENVER — The Border War was taken to neutral ground, a site

about 100 miles south of the Wyoming-Colorado border, where

late-game turnovers sent the Rams women’s basketball team chances

at a conference championship run southbound as well.

Unable to complete a second-half comeback, the Rams fell to

Wyoming 67-61 in the first round of the Mountain West Conference

Tournament at the Pepsi Center.

“Obviously a very disappointing effort,” said CSU head coach

Chris Denker. “Our coaching staff did not have us ready. We turned

the ball over; we did not shoot well. I take complete blame.”

Wyoming guard Ashley Elliot was unstoppable and proved why she

is a first-team all-Conference selection. The Rams defense could

not find a way to prevent the junior from hitting wide-open

3-pointers. Elliot finished the game with six 3-pointers and 29

total points.

“They just try to get one kid a lot of shots and she makes

them,” Denker said of Elliot. “It is not rocket science.”

Wyoming threw a tough, double-coverage defense at the Rams in

the paint, making it hard for them to get open shots. Nevertheless,

CSU rebounds and an equally tough Ram defense kept them in the

game. Senior guard Jasai Ferrucho led the Rams with six steals, and

together with sophomore Vanessa Espinoza pushed the ball in

transition to put points on the board.

“We had some good stretches where we defended well and were able

to get the ball in transition,” Denker said.

Each team enjoyed its share of scoring streaks in the first

half, but Wyoming came out on top at halftime 31-25. Three-pointers

were the Cowgirls’ primary scoring method, as the treys made up 21

of their 25 first-half points. Junior Forward Kristen Lenhardt

finished the game with 18 points, 12 of which came from behind the

arc.

CSU accumulated a seven-point lead at the beginning of the

second half after taking a 31-25 lead into the locker room at

halftime. Wyoming answered with a scoring run and tied the game at

43 with 10 minutes remaining.

Clutch free throws by CSU’s Kylee O’Dwyer, Lindsay Thomas and

Espinoza helped the Rams reclaim the lead at 51-43 with 7:34 left

to play. The Cowgirls refused to ride off quietly into the night

and countered with another run that put them ahead 57-52, with two

minutes to go.

“We had an eight-point lead, but we let Elliot shoot and turned

the ball over,” Ferrucho said. “That lost us the game right

there.”

Trailing late, the Rams were forced to foul Wyoming in an

attempt to stop the clock, but Elliot, Lendhardt and guard Brenda

Pickup hit 10-of-12 free throws to clinch the victory.

“Today there was no folding, no backing down,” said Pickup,

Wyoming’s defensive specialist who finished with four steals. “They

are going to go on their runs, but we fought back today.”

Five Rams hit double figures in scoring, including Ferrucho with

13, Espinoza with 12, Thomas and Melissa Dennett with 11 and Joy

Jenkins with 10. Dennett also added three blocks. The Rams were

out-rebounded 33-26.

The Rams now await the WNIT schedule to be released on Sunday to

find out how their season will end. Top-seeded New Mexico, which

beat Air Force 63-50 in the tournament’s first game, now faces

Wyoming at noon on Friday. Wyoming advances to the MWC second round

for the first time in school history.

The Good: Annika Walseth had a monumental, momentum-changing

block in the second half that sent the ball flying into the

stands.

The Bad: The Rams got into foul trouble early in the second half

and sent the Cowgirls into the bonus with 10:26 left in the

game.

The Ugly: The Rams had a four-minute scoreless stretch late in

the second half that gave Wyoming a lead it did not relinquish.

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