Colorado State Earns Trip to Semifinals with Win Over Utah State
LAS VEGAS - Top-seeded Colorado State closed its 2014 Reese's Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinal game against No. 8 Utah State on an 8-0 run in the final minute to snap a 67-67 tie and advance to Friday's semifinal round with a 72-67 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The MW regular-season champion Rams (24-6) picked up their first win in the Conference tournament since 2009. They will face the winner of No. 4 Boise State (17-12) and No. 5 Wyoming (19-10) at Noon PT on March 14 in the first of two semifinal contests. The Aggies had their five-game win streak snapped and end their season with a 15-16 record.
"Playing a Utah State team with those guards, I mean, those guards are big time players, terrific players," said Colorado State head coach Ryun Williams, whose team was 23-of-28 from the free-throw line. That's the third-most all-time in the MW Women's Basketball Championship. "So they're not a traditional eight seed. It surely gets our urgency level where it needs to be early on in the tournament. It surely got us spurred and ready to go."
A back-and-forth second half saw multiple lead changes, including two in the final minute. Utah State sophomore guard/forward Stephanie Bairstow hit a jump shot to push the Aggies out in front 67-64 with 1:06 to play. Colorado State senior forward Sam Martin tied the game with a three-point play and the Rams took the lead for good on its ensuing possession when freshman forward Elin Gustavsson converted a putback plus the foul shot with 11.8 seconds to go.
"I think like Coach said we find another way to win every time," said Colorado State junior guard Gritt Ryder, who led the way for the Rams with 23 points. "I was confident that we were going to find a way. Maybe it wasn't going to be a three, but an offensive rebound from Sam or a drive by Elly (Gustavsson). As Sam says, just take it one play at a time. I think we did that and I think that's why we won."
In addition to Ryder, Martin (15 points), junior guard AJ Newton (11 points) and freshman guard Ellen Nystrom (10 points) also hit double figures for the victors.
Bairstow hit all eight of her field goal attempts to finish with 19 points. Senior guard Jennifer Schlott became Utah State's all-time leading scorer (1,566 points) in the contest and finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Sophomore guard Makenlee Williams also hit double figures for Utah State with 14 points.
"We've had six or seven games this year that have been just like this," Utah State head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "We've had control and then lost in the last two to three minutes. I'm just really proud of girls as we finished the journey this first year (in the Mountain West)."