It was a good time to be a CSU Ram Monday night. The players were all smiles, the fans were clapping to the fight song, and the band even got to break out their favorite “Start the bus” chant with 1:30 left on the clock.
Riding yet another outstanding performance from junior guard Sara Hunter, Colorado State women’s basketball opened regular season play with an 89-72 rout of the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos.
Hunter finished with 26 points, a school record for points on opening night and just one shy of her career high.
Hunter wasn’t the only one to put up a big number in the scoring column, as freshman guard Kelly Jo Mullaney tallied 22 and senior guard Molly Nohr put up 17 of her own. Nohr also finished with a career high eight assists.
“I think we have a whole new mentality this year,” Nohr said. “When anyone is in there they play their hardest and if they can’t they call for a sub.”
Mullaney said that despite being just a true freshman, she feels that once the whistle blows she is able to relax and just play.
“Once I just got into the rhythm of the game it felt like any other game,” Mullaney said. “We just came out there and gave our hardest, and didn’t let the nervousness (of opening night) get the best of us.”
The Rams were able to hold onto and control the ball better than they did in last week’s loss to Metro State, finishing the game with just two turnovers in the second half and a total of 13 on the night.
Head coach Jen Warden said that the team looked as good tonight as they have all season, and that she is happy that her three starting guards are beginning to take control of games.
“Pretty soon the cat’s going to be out of the bag,” Warden said, “Those three (Hunter, Mullaney, and Nohr) are our moneymakers and we are going to work our tails off to get them looks. Molly (Nohr) and Sara (Hunter) are developing the feeling that if it is to be, then it is up to me. And we are very comfortable with that as a team.”
UMKC was able to stick with the Rams for much of the second half, but couldn’t keep up with the CSU’s top three guards.
CSU went into halftime on fire offensively, shooting better than 50 percent from the field and a lights-out 60 percent from three on their way to a 43-33 lead at the break. From that point on it was all Rams.
Defensively the Rams were able to control the inside for much of the game, forcing UMKC to score most of their points with mid-range jumpers and from the perimeter. The Kangaroos shot 14 times from three-point range in the first half alone, connecting five times.
Warden believed the success should be taken with a grain of salt and that the team shouldn’t read too much into it, but that she feels like the tides are turning for the program and the team that finished 9-20 last year.
“I think there is an exciting new energy about what CSU basketball can do,” coach Warden said. “I want this experience to be what (the players) want it to be, and I feel like they are in a situation to do that.”
Women’s basketball beat writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.