With the regular season ending in a loss to San Diego State, the CSU women’s basketball team (9-20, 4-12 MWC) travels to Las Vegas for the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament today.
This year the Rams are a much-improved group with nine overall wins, including four conference wins over Air Force (4-25, 0-16 MWC) and UNLV (12-17, 5-11 MWC) under first year head coach Kristen Holt.
“We are looking for the tenth win of our season, and if we could get the tenth win I think that would be good for us. Not that it stops there because we want to keep going,” Holt said.
The Rams enter the tournament as the eighth seed in the MWC and will have to do first round battle against the fifth seed Wyoming Cowgirls (16-13, 8-8 MWC), a team that swept CSU in the regular season.
“Championship game is what I am shooting for and then winning there, and if we come out and play hard, there is no doubt in my mind we will make it there. I am confident enough in myself and my teammates that we can get the job done,” senior forward Britney Minor said.
In the history of the MWC tournament, the Rams have faced the Cowgirls four times, with an overall record of 3-1.
CSU managed to outscore Wyoming in the second half of both games this season, but the Rams fell to the Cowgirls twice because of the excellent three-point shooting by Wyoming in the first 20 minutes of each game.
“I think we have played into (Wyoming’s) mood and style both times we have played them. Our style has got to be what we did against San Diego State. We have got to run from the beginning,” Holt said. “We have got to be sharper defensively. They hurt us the first time, coming off screens and hitting threes, and we put them at the free throw line too many times.”
Last time the two teams met on Feb. 25, the Rams defense allowed four Wyoming players to reach double figures.
“We have to come into the game with a totally different game plan than we did the last two games. If we don’t, we won’t get past (Wyoming),” Minor said.
Emma Langford reached double figures in both contests for the Cowgirls, scoring 18 points on Jan. 24 and 17 points on Feb. 25. Langford’s teammate Hilary Carlson also had two great games against CSU, totaling 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first matchup and 16 points and nine boards in the last contest.
With nine teams total in the MWC, the tournament layout has been a challenge since TCU became the ninth university to join the conference in 2005-06.
This year the tournament will begin a new format that has the top two seeds, number one San Diego State (22-6, 13-3 MWC) and second seed Utah (20-9, 13-3 MWC), receiving automatic byes into the semi-finals. TCU (20-9 12-4 MWC), the third seed, will not play until the quarterfinals.
Fourth seed New Mexico (20-9, 9-7 MWC) and last place Air Force will begin the tournament tipping off at 2 p.m., with the winner facing the victor of the Rams/Cowgirls matchup.
Sixth seed BYU (18-10, 8-8 MWC) and seventh seed UNLV will then conclude Tuesday’s games with the winner advancing to face TCU in the quarterfinals.
CSU sits first in rebounding in the MWC, averaging 40.6 rebounds per game, led by senior Amaka Uzomah and Cornell. Uzomah averages 6.8 boards per game, and Cornell is right behind her with five rebounds per game.
“I hope we do more than what we did last year. Everyone is going to overlook us like they did last year, but I think teams are afraid to play us so we have to go in there and get the job done,” Cornell said.
CSU entered the 2008 MWC tournament last in conference play with zero wins but managed to pull off the upset against UNLV in the first round and shocked Utah in the second. However, the Rams would fall to New Mexico in the semi-finals 65-41.
CSU will play in the second game in today’s matchups, tipping off at 4:30 p.m. PST.
Women’s basketball beat writer Justin Warren can be reached at email@example.com.