Rams’ runaway first half buries host Spartans

By Daniel Reedy:

Even on home court, San Jose State was overmatched by the Mountain West Conference’s top defense.

The Spartans (6-14, 35 in MW) lost 68-56 to the visiting Colorado State Rams (15-5, 7-1 in MW) Wednesday night.

Colorado State’s Elin Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom were dominant. Gustavsson posted a game-high 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Nystrom was just one assist away from triple-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.

Rams’ guard Stine Austgulen also finished with 17 points and was deadly from downtown, sinking 5 of 7.

“They were the better team.” said Spartans’ head coach Jamie Craighead. “We couldn’t hit shots from the high post, couldn’t hit shots from the three-point line … I just don’t think we were playing.”

Colorado State’s conference leading defense immobilized the SJSU’s offense in the first half. The Rams’ commitment to the zone defense proved successful, restricting the Spartans to outside shots and 16.7 percent shooting.

Craighead criticized SJSU’s attack for being too stagnant and not working to find the gaps in the zone.

As usual, guard Dezz Ramos led the Spartans in scoring but recorded just 17 points well below her average of 27 points per conference game (22 PPG overall).

SJSU was dreadful in the first two quarters, entering halftime down 43-16. The Rams were on fire, shooting 60 percent in the first half and draining 6 of 9 from three-point range.

The Spartans only scored five points in the second quarter, and were shutout until there were less than two minutes in the second frame.

Apart from Ramos, the other four starters struggled to score throughout the game, making just 6 of 35. Forward Paris Baird and guard Myzhanique Ladd each missed their four attempts from beyond the arc.

Craighead was unsurprisingly disappointed heading into the locker room, but “challenged [the Spartans’] heart, their passion” and to play better in the second half.

And they did.

SJSU came out much stronger after the break, and outscored the Rams 40-25.

After making just 3 of 19 from range, the Spartans were able to hit 5 of 17 in the third and fourth quarters. Forward Hailee Gennett knocked down a pair of threes off the bench.

The Spartans shot 13 of 33 in the second half and it wasn’t because the Rams pulled their top players. Each of Colorado State’s starters played at least 30 minutes.

Obviously, the 15-point differential wasn’t enough to overcome the massive deficit left by the disastrous first half, but Craighead called the second half improvements “something to build on.”

The Spartans did win the turnover battle, committing just five turnovers to the Rams’ 11.

Additionally, SJSU shot well from the line at 83.3 percent and only gave Colorado State nine free throw opportunities, but the sharp-shooting Rams made each one.

The Spartans will hope to bounce back on the road against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels (14-6, 5-3 in conference) at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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