Jan 192005
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

Moby Arena will be vacant throughout the day, but tonight at 7 the CSU women's basketball team hopes to have it filled to capacity when it looks for its first Mountain West Conference win against San Diego State.

SDSU (6-7, 1-0 MWC) comes to Fort Collins looking for its third straight win. If the Aztecs get it, it would be the first time in eight years they have started conference play 2-0. Their first conference win came against UNLV, who was the preseason first-place pick for the conference.

"It doesn't surprise me (that they beat UNLV) because (SDSU) always play hard and they play great at home," said CSU head coach Chris Denker. "No matter where you are picked, this is a good conference. You've got to be ready to play."

The Rams (9-6, 0-2) started off conference play last weekend with two disappointing losses to Utah (13-4, 2-0) and BYU (10-5, 1-1 MWC).

"We definitely wanted to go in there and get a sweep," said junior center Lindsey Thomas. "We were not aggressive."

In addition to the losses, starting guard Vanessa Espinoza and sophomore Marilyn Moulton went down with injuries. During the Utah game, starting freshman guard Sara Hunter also went down with a hamstring pull.

"It was not the injury perspective that hurt us, but an emotional impact," Denker said. "We went to BYU and didn't play well. It's really tough to take (those losses) but you have to put it behind you."

While Moulton is a hopeful for tonight's game, Hunter and Espinoza are likely to play.

"It changes both the game plan and the rotation," Denker said. "It brings to light some of the problems. It affects a lot of things."

Denker said in the absence of regular players he hopes to see some players off the bench step up.

"(Melissa) Dennett and Thomas played really well last weekend," Denker said. "They need to continue to do that. What we really need is someone off the bench to step up."

Dennett leads the team with 14.2 points per game and Thomas has the most rebounds with 8.9.

SDSU has looked to young players to fuel its fire, with sophomore guard Michelle Elliott leading the team with 13.9 points per game, while freshman forward Ashley Cheesman has a team-best 6.8 rebounds.

"Those are probably their two best players," Thomas said. "They play a really methodical offense. They try to wear the shot clock out. We definitely want to score better on them than we did last week (against Utah and BYU)."

Both Thomas and Denker hope the return to friendly confines at Moby will help restore the team to health and confidence. The Rams recorded a season-high attendance record during Winter Break when they played Connecticut before a crowd of 7,048.

"It's a big difference (playing at home)," Thomas said. "I think it's a good thing to be playing at home and get our confidence up. We need to get more people coming so it's like (the UCONN crowd)."

Denker believes playing at home gives the Rams an advantage.

"It doesn't mean we're going to win, but we have a better chance," Denker said.

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