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Fresno State Preview: Can CSU Women's Basketball take down the mighty Bulldogs?

Justin Michael Avatar
December 2, 2020

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — It’s been a strange start to the season for Colorado State women’s basketball (2-0). In addition to not having a single fan in the stands, something that’s odd in it’s own right, the Rams had to play their first two games without head coach Ryun Willams, as he was exposed to an individual that tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to quarantine. 

“It was a little stressful not being at the opener,” Williams said. “I’m very much looking forward to being back.”

What’s encouraging is despite missing the veteran leader of the program on the sidelines, the Rams made light work of their first two opponents, winning each game by 40+ points, and putting up extremely impressive offensive figures in both wins. 

The Rams started the fun with a 47-point beatdown of Regis University (111-64) in the opener — ironically setting the high mark for points scored in a game during the Williams era on a night he wasn’t even on the sidelines. 

“Against Regis, we were able to spread minutes around and get a lot of players into the game,” Williams said in a release. “We showed with great pace, confidence, and unselfish play. Obviously, we shined offensively, but I am excited to see the improvement collectively on the defensive side of the floor.”

PHOTO: Christian Schuepbach (CSU Athletics)

In the win over the Rangers all 16 student-athletes saw time on the floor but nobody shined brighter than Tori Williams, who had a career-best 30 points and tied the school record for 3’s in a game with eight. After her stellar performance, Williams’ name now stands next to Becky Hammon, Kim Mestdagh and Sara Hunter in the record book. (Not too shabby for Game 1.)

Along with Williams, graduate transfer Karly Murphy had 14 points and six rebounds in what was a strong CSU debut. McKenna Hofschild, another transfer player (Seton Hall), stood out as well with 10 assists. No Ram had more than seven in any single game last season, so Hofschild’s presence on the floor certainly appears to be a boost for the overall efficiency of the group. 

In total, 14 players made at least one basket and nine Rams totaled multiple field goals in the victory. As a team CSU made 13-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc and 22-of-30 free throws. The Rams finished +12 on the glass and +6 in the turnover margin. They also had more fast break points, second chance points, and absolutely dominated the Rangers in the paint. Quite simply, CSU dominated Regis, just like they should have expected to. 

In the second game against Colorado Christian University the Rams were just as dominant as they never trailed the Cougars in the blowout victory (96-54). Nobody set any individual records in the game but it was once again a strong team showing. All 16 players on the roster saw time on the floor — 12 of which contributed with two or more field goals apiece — and the duo of Tori Williams and McKenna Hofschild starred again with another strong showing behind the arc. Both players finished a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point land, accounting for more than half of CSU’s makes from deep. 

Hofschild and Karly Murphy tied for the lead in scoring with 12 points each. Murphy was perfect from the field (5-of-5) and finished with a team-high eight rebounds. Not to be forgotten, Williams was right behind those two with 11 points on 100 percent shooting. Williams also was a major contributor on the defensive side with three steals. Finally, Lore Devos rounded out CSU’s top scorers with 10 points, in addition to the two blocks she had on defense. 

After starting the year with a couple of tune-up wins over smaller local programs, the Rams now will have to face Fresno State (1-1) with a pair of games over Dec. 3-4. In their opener, the Bulldogs fell 83-62 to West Virginia in Las Vegas, before rebounding with a 99-49 stomping of Lamar. 

In each of the first two games of the season the Bulldogs were led in scoring by Hanna Cavinder. Hanna is coming off of a stellar freshman campaign in which she was named to the All-Freshman Team and earned All-Mountain West honors as well. Now a sophomore, she doesn’t appear to be skipping a beat. Hanna scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting against the Mountaineers, then dropped 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the win over Lamar.

Slowing Hanna down will certainly be a priority for Williams’ Rams, the tough part is that right behind Hanna in terms of production, has been Haley Cavinder — her twin sister, who was also named to the All-Freshman Team, earned All-Mountain West honors, and was named the Mountain West Freshman of the year in 2019-20.

After breaking Fresno State’s scoring record for a freshman player, Haley is currently averaging 16 points per game as a second-year starter. As soon as she starts knocking down her 3’s consistently again, though, Haley is going to be a nightmare for opponents to cover, especially with her sister playing so well. 

Really, across the board, Fresno State is a pretty brutal draw for the Rams to open up Mountain West play against. The Bulldogs are coming off of a 25-7 campaign in which they were a 4-point loss in the Mountain West Championship Game away from reaching the NCAA Tournament.

If there is a silver lining it’s that CSU hung really tough against Fresno State on the road last year, narrowly falling 55-53 to the Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center, after Aly Gamez sunk a game-winning floater at the buzzer. Gamez killed the Rams with 27 points in the game in Fort Collins as well, though CSU did not compete as well in the second matchup last season. Right behind the then-junior guard was Haley Cavinder with 20 points in the matchup at Moby Arena. 

If CSU wants to steal a win or two from the Bulldogs this time around, limiting the production of Fresno State’s stellar trio of guards will be paramount. Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done, considering Fresno State has one of the deepest rosters in the league. They’ve played a ton of minutes on the floor together, so they know how to play to each other’s strengths. And with so many people on the floor that kill you from the perimeter, and the amount of speed they possess on the roster, the Bulldogs were the preseason league favorites for a reason.

The Rams looked pretty impressive in their first two wins of the season, truly dominating every phase of the game. As highlighted above, though, Fresno State is a completely different beast to contain. Time to see what this revamped roster is made of. 

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