Upe Atosu scored nine of her 14 points in the fourth quarter Monday night to lead the Colorado State women’s basketball team to a 51-38 win over Wyoming in a Border War quarterfinal of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
Atosu’s 3-pointer a couple minutes into the fourth quarter tied the game 35-35, and her driving layups on back-to-back possessions just minutes later gave the Rams a 43-38 lead.
CSU closed the game on a 14-0 run despite going without a field goal over the final 3:47, sealing the victory by hitting 8 of 12 free throws down the stretch in the Rams’ lowest-scoring game of the season.
The Rams scored 84 points in a first-round win Sunday night over San Jose State.
“There’s a lot of ways to win a basketball game,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said in a postgame news conference. “Last night, you score 84. Tonight, you score 51 and hold somebody to 38. This as tough a defensive performance as we’ve had this year at obviously the most opportune time.”
Semifinal winners will advance to the championship game at 8 p.m. Wednesday, with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament awaiting the winner.
CSU and Wyoming had split their two regular-season meetings, with the Rams winning 56-45 on Feb. 17 in Fort Collins and the Cowgirls winning 69-63 in overtime last Thursday in Laramie.
“The way it went in Laramie, we weren’t really happy about the ending, so I think tonight we just locked in and tried to get a win,” CSU point guard McKenna Hofschild said. “And 19 days, three games (against one team); that’s a lot. But it’s really just coming down to execution and wanting it more.”
Atosu, a 5-foot-9 guard from Nigeria, was named the MW Newcomer of the Year on Monday in a vote of league coaches. She played two seasons apiece at Labette Community College in Kansas and Butler before coming to CSU last summer as a gradaute transfer.
The Rams’ second-leading scorer was scoreless in the first half Monday night. But she and Hofschild both started attacking the basket more in the second half, driving for layups instead of kicking the ball back out on the perimeter.
That was by design, Williams said.
“I wanted McKenna to be more aggressive,” Williams said. “… I liked her attack mod there in that fourth quarter. We made a slight adjustment with just where we put some personnel so we could maybe get some downhill drives with Upe and obviously she was very aggressive driving those rails, got a couple of those to go.
“Which you get a five-point cushion against Wyoming, man, that just feels like a big lead. So those were much-needed baskets, and I credit our kids for continuing to get stops.”
Hofschild led the Rams with 16 points and four assists, while Karly Murphy added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Tommi Olson had 10 points and McKinley Bradshaw nine for Wyoming (15-12), the No. 3 seed and defending MW Tournament champion.
Kelly Lyell reports on CSU, high school and other local sports and topics of interest for the Coloradoan. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. If you ‘re a subscriber, thank you for your support. If not, please consider purchasing a digital subscription today.