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Frontcourt Play Fuels Rams Past Aggies, 90-59

FORT COLLINS, Colo.– Most nights, this is a guard-driven team.
Tori Williamsleads Colorado State women’s basketball in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and her backcourt mate,McKenna Hofschild, averages 14.5. Just not on Wednesday night at Moby Arena.
They combined to score just 15 points, going 4-of-14 from the floor, 3-of-9 behind the arc. And the Rams, who lead the Mountain West in 3-point shooting at a 41.5 percent clip, were woefully below that clip most of the night against Utah State, but they did finish with a flurry with contributions off the bench.
So what’s a team to do?
Go inside and produce career nights in what would become a 90-59 blowout of the Aggies. The last time the Rams hit 90 in a Mountain West game was back on Feb. 17, 2016, also against Utah State.
Karly Murphypoured in 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for her first double-double as a Ram, andCali Clarkmatched her career bests with 11 points and eight rebounds in the game. Aiding the inside effort was the usual damage ofLore Devos, who closed with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Good timing, one would say. And for more than the scoring.
“Utah State is really good at defending the 3-point line. They’ve got some athletic guards, they have some length at that position, as well,” CSU coachRyun Williamssaid. “You’ve got to find your 3s in transition, which I thought we did in the second half, but yeah, we thought we could get it inside. I thought the kids had a really good mentality of really trying to score it.
“I’ve said this early on in the season, the 5-spot has been our best position in practice, in our scrimmage stuff … They grade out the best, they score the most and they rebound the best. You saw what we’ve been seeing for some time, they just got the touches tonight.”
Which made it good timing for Utah State to arrive on the schedule. It was an area the Rams felt they could expose, but it would only happen if Murphy and Clark took the initiative. Murphy is a transfer, so she has experience, but she’s also had to deal with an early injury, so she’s still catching up a bit.
And Clark, she’s a freshman, who admits she isn’t always comfortable in asserting herself into the play.
Coach told them play or sit. Easy as that.
“Watching film, you could see the post flash is open almost every time. He really emphasized that, and just being aggressive on the boards and getting those mismatches, because they switch a lot, too,” Murphy said. “Yeah, when they give us the go to be aggressive – and they normally do – and things are falling, you’ve just got to keep going at them.”
The first quarter was a bit of a rust-buster for the Rams, who missed two games last week when San Jose State ran into COVID-19 problems and eventually shut down the season. CSU was a step slow defensively in the first quarter, and still at times throughout the game, which led to a slow start. Offensively, the looks were good, but shots weren’t falling.
Even though Clark, who started, missed her first two shots, they were good looks. She started, then gave way to Murphy, who came out hot. But when Clark re-entered the game, she didn’t shy away from backing defenders into the low post and getting her shots.
Clark admitted the way the year has gone, with no exhibition games, it was hard to gain some early confidence. With confidence, players can be more aggressive. In Murphy, she has somebody in her corner.
“Karly has been a really good leader for me and a person to look up to,” Clark said. “We have a relationship where we just give each other notes, in and out of games and on the bench and at practice.”
And Murphy really likes her protégé. She was one once, too. She remembers how much it meant to her developing her game, and Wednesday was one of her best with her second career double-double.
She thinks nights like this can become the norm, though she expects Clark to continue to add to the mix.
“It’s super nice having each other to go against every day, and then somethings I can see I can help her out a little more,” Murphy said. “She works really hard, so she’s going to be a really good player someday.”
Murphy paused, then broke the silence by correcting herself.
“Well, she is right now. But she’s going to be really, really good someday,” she added with emphasis.
So when they switched out, they were talking. Giving tips. Encouraging each other, because on this night, the Rams really needed them to perform.
Clark finished 5-of-10 from the field, Murphy 8-of-12. While her scoring was important, immediately it wasn’t her biggest contribution from Williams’ perspective.
“Karly andJamie Bonnarens, when they came in the game, first and second half, really played with some poise and composure – played like those old seasoned veterans – and calmed us down,” he said. “They had good performances, but I just liked how they calmed us down and played with the poise.”
Bonnarens finished with nine, all on 3-pointers, and she even contributed a bit to the dominance on the boards, as the Rams held a 53-34 edge. Again, Murphy, Clark and Devos were front and center in that regard. Offensively, the Rams rolled in the final three quarters, scoring at least 22 in each stanza as the lead continued to grow.
And while Hofschild struggled to score, she still ran the offense well, collecting nine assists. AndTori Williams, who had an off night, finished with a pair of 3s that can carry over to the next game.
Coach Williams also wants to see the posts stay involved. Not just against Utah State, but the rest of the year.
“They can score it in there, but they’re also really good passers. Its’ a good place to facilitate from,” he said. “Timing was great. As those two grow, aCali Clark, this is a good game for her. She’s continuing to get her feet wet. Karly has been out with an injury for a while, so to get her back into the rhythm of producing, it just helps our lineup and helps our balance.”
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