The CSU women’s basketball team has seemingly been unable to catch a break this season, facing constant challenges on and off the court.
But the Rams still say they are on the cusp of a breakout performance and this would be just the right time for one.
CSU (8-20, 3-13) opens play in the Mountain West Conference tournament today against Air Force (5-22, 1-15) at 6 p.m. at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
CSU comes in as the tournament’s eighth seed and Air Force is the ninth seed. This will be the play-in game determining who will face top-seeded Brigham Young Wednesday.
The Rams lost their final two games of the season against Wyoming and UNLV, finishing the year with just three wins in MWC play, two of which came against the Falcons.
Senior center Marilyn Moulton said the team has to forget about the regular season and focus on the task ahead.
“Every game is a fresh start,” she said. “Whether you win or you lose, you can’t carry it into the next game.”
The Rams’ only other league win this year came against San Diego State, losing close contests to BYU, Wyoming and UNLV in which they could not get over the hump for a season-changing win.
But sophomore forward Kelly Finley said the team still fells confident.
“I really look at it as there are three seasons: your non-conference schedule, your conference schedule, and then the conference tournament,” she said. “This is a whole new deal.”
Finley, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s season-ending loss against UNLV, is one of several Rams players who have stepped up their play in the final weeks of the season.
Junior guard Sara Hunter averaged 16.7 during the month of February, including a career-high 28 points against TCU on Feb. 7.
Senior center Marilyn Moulton heads into the tournament averaging 8.1 points per game, second best in the MWC.
Freshman center Nya Mason posted a career-high 14 points against New Mexico on Feb. 14 and then tied that mark against Wyoming 11 days later.
But Head Coach Jen Warden said the team has learned not to depend on hot streaks, considering the ups and downs it has endured this season.
“I don’t know if we’ve become much of a momentum team,” Warden said. “I think we’re more of a bootstraps team. Whatever’s out there, these players throw away the bad and keep the good.”
The good in this situation, certainly, is that the Rams will start tournament play against a team they swept in the regular season.
Air Force is led by junior forward Alecia Steele, who averages 12.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Junior forward Pamela Findlay comes in averaging 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest.
The winner of today’s play-in game will face top-seeded BYU tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Women’s basketball beat writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.