FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Colorado State Rams (25-8) were knocked out of the first round of the women's NIT on Thursday night with a 71-56 loss at Moby Arena to Big Sky regular season co-champions, Southern Utah.
The Rams closed out their historic 2013-14 campaign with 25 wins, which is tied for the third most wins in school history, previously done in 2000-01. The loss also snaps CSU's home win streak at 13 games.
"We obviously didn't play our best basketball," Head Coach Ryun Williams said. "We kept putting too much pressure on our defense tonight, and it caught up to us."
Junior guard AJ Newton led Colorado State with 17 points, while junior guard Gritt Ryder also finished in double figures with 12 points. Senior forward Sam Martin tallied seven points and six rebounds. Martin finished her decorated career 1,547 points, 753 rebounds and 156 blocks making her the only player in CSU history to achieve at least 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 150 blocks.
Fellow senior Hayley Thompson finished her career with 110 games played, ranking 29th in school history, while Alicia Nicholsfinished her two-year career at CSU with 331 points.
Both teams shot below 40 percent on the night, with the Rams at 35.3 percent and the Thunderbirds at 39.3 percent, but Southern Utah did its damage on the glass. SUU out-rebounded CSU 45-25, including 14-6 on the offensive glass, and converted its rebounding into a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points.
The Thunderbirds were relentless attacking the basket and outscored the Rams 30-16 in the paint. SUU was rewarded with 28 free throws in the game, converting 24 of them. In the second half, Southern Utah was especially effective from the charity stripe, going 19-of-22.
While Southern Utah found ways to score easy points in the second half, Colorado State struggled to find any offensive rhythm and shot just 6-of-24 from the field. Down by two at half, 30-28, CSU started the second half 2-of-13 and saw SUU pull away to a nine-point lead. The Thunderbirds maintained a comfortable lead, never letting the Rams get closer than four points, en route to its 15-point win.
"We have to not look just at this game; we have to look at what we just accomplished, and how this group breathed life back into Colorado State women's basketball," Williams said. "What they've done for this program, and how they've helped turn this thing and start this momentum, this will always be a very, very, very special group."