After a much-improved season from last year, CSU women’s basketball head coach Kristen Holt will lead the Rams (9-19, 4-11 MWC) against the second seed in the Mountain West Conference, the San Diego State Aztecs (20-6, 11-3 MWC), inside Moby Arena for the final game of the regular season tonight.
“I think the last few games we have not played with the intensity that we were playing with there for a stretch,” Holt said. “With this team it is all about intensity and focus and if they are focused, they are a completely different team.”
The Rams come into tonight’s game with two consecutive losses, the first to Wyoming and then a 22-point loss to New Mexico on the road.
“We have to put that past us, learn from our mistakes and just play hard,” sophomore guard Zoi Simmons said. “We just have to go out there and give it all we have got. We just have to focus and play hard because we want to do good in the tournament that is coming up.”
The Aztecs have won seven of their last eight games and enter tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak after beating New Mexico, BYU and TCU.
SDSU has two games left and the Aztecs are in a fight for the second seed in the conference, with TCU also hoping to snag one of the first round byes awarded to the top two teams in the MWC Tournament.
“They will be in altitude, and I don’t know how disciplined they will be,” junior forward Juanise Cornell said. “We have been running and getting into good shape. Coach Holt has been emphasizing running, and if we get them tired at the end of the game, then their shots will not fall. Our best bet is to run them to death.”
Last match between the two schools, the Rams came back from a nine-point halftime deficit to lead the Aztecs by seven points with 7:29 left in the game. However, CSU lost the lead after SDSU outscored the Rams 18-8 in the final seven minutes of play, defeating CSU by one point, 62-61. Sophomore forward Jen Layton-Bailes sank the winning lay-up at the buzzer to give the Aztecs the victory.
The Rams allowed four SDSU players, sophomore center Paris Johnson, junior guard Quenese Davis, junior guard Jene Morris and Layton-Bailes, to score in double figures in that game. Johnson led the game and the Aztecs in scoring and rebounding with 20 points and 12 boards.
The Rams are currently the eighth seed in MWC, below the UNLV Rebels (11-16, 4-10). CSU hopes to enter next week’s MWC tournament as the seventh seed, but they will need to defeat SDSU and have a little help from the Air Force Falcons when the Rebels travel to Air Force Academy tonight. The Rams will then tie UNLV for seventh but receive the tiebreaker because they swept the Rebels this season.
For the Rams, sophomore guard Bonnie Barbee has been playing well in her last two games, totaling 19 points against Wyoming and New Mexico.
Freshman guard Kim Mestdagh has been performing well also, scoring 18 points against New Mexico and having a career rebounding performance against Wyoming with nine boards. Mestdagh currently sits tied with former Ram Sara Hunter for second on the freshman three-pointers list and could take second with one three against SDSU.
Four seniors will end their CSU basketball careers tonight after playing for the Rams the past two seasons in route to return CSU to a top MWC basketball program.
Senior captain Kandy Beemer and fellow senior forwards Carine Reimink, Britney Minor and Amaka Uzomah were all brought to CSU last year to try and get the Rams back to their old winning ways.
Beemer has hit 58 three-pointers this season, passing Sara Hunter for eighth place in three-pointers made in a single season by a CSU player, and Minor is on pace to connect on 100 free throws this season for the first time since former Ram Melissa Dennett hit 100 free throws in the 2004-05 season.
Uzomah is currently tied for eighth in MWC rebounding with 75 offensive boards and is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game.
This season Reimink has seen action in 25 games, starting 19, including the first 13 games of the season, and scored in double figures against Wyoming.
Tip-off for tonight’s game is set for 7 p.m., with the four seniors being honored before the game.
Women’s basketball beat writer Justin Warren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.