For the struggling Aggies, it was a little too fitting that on a day where they produced on of their best offensive games that their opponent, Colorado State, should also have a red-hot shooting day to send Utah State’s women’s basketball team to its 12th conference loss of the year, 67-61.
Colorado State (11-13, 5-8) finished the game with a new season-high in 3-pointers made, 15, and did so while posting its second-best percentage from that range, 48.4 percent. That made up for a dearth in points in the paint — just eight, zero in the first half — and bench points (five).
“Whatever defensive adjustments we made, we weren’t able to execute them the way that we wanted to execute,” USU head coach Ben Finkbeiner said. “And honestly, at the start of the game we didn’t execute our defense the way that we wanted to.”
The embodiment of the defensive struggles and frustration for USU (7-18, 2-12 MW) came in the third quarter. At the 4:18 mark, CSU guard Jamie Bonnarens hit a corner three, one of her four on the night in as many attempts. Some 75 feet away, Finkbeiner stood up in a sudden bout of visible frustration and turned his back to the play to walk down the court for a moment before calling out his players for the mistake. It was the Rams’ 13th triple of the game and Bonnarens was a little too wide open for someone who was perfect from deep for the game.
“I had called a timeout right before that and they’d hit a three,” Finkbeiner said. “And then I tore into our girls just saying no more threes, no more three, no more threes. And then they ran a similar play they’ve been running all night long and we didn’t switch the way that we needed to switch, and then again they hit it. So that’s when I started losing it because we’d been talking about it for three quarters now and it still wasn’t getting taken care of.”
With stopping the Rams simply not happening, USU instead did its best impression of the visiting crew, going so far as to join them in the accomplishment of setting a new season-high in makes from beyond the arc by going 9 for 20.
“We shot the ball really well, based on statistics and based on what we’ve done all year long,” Finkbeiner said.
Senior forward Marlene Aniambossou set the tone for the season-best day shooting the ball. She went perfect a perfect 5 of 5 from the field and was even perfect at the free throw line, going 6 for 6 there. The Benin, Africa, native even hit the first two 3-pointers of her Division I career, having only attempted two shots before Wednesday. All of that added up to a career-high 18 points, breaking her previous best of 16 set against Colorado State earlier this year.
One of Aniambossou’s triples was eerily similar to her game-winner against Boise State last Saturday, though it was seven feet further back.
Off a three-quarter court pass from Hailey Bassett, Aniambossou did her best Randy Moss impression to catch the Hail Mary and, with two seconds on the clock, heaved a turnaround shot with a girl right in her face and banked it in off the glass.
“I don’t know what happened,” Aniambossou said of her first 3-pointer. “I was open, so I just shot the ball.”
Fellow senior Lindsey Jensen-Baker also had herself a solid day at the office with 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting. Freshman guard Kamalu Kamakawiwo’ole set two new personal season-highs with two 3-pointers made and six rebounds — which led the team — to go with her 12 points. Kamakawiwo’ole’s points were third on the team and the two triples tied three other players for most in the game for USU.
Thanks to the many offensive exploits Utah State produced, the game remained close for effectively the entire time. Though the Aggies never regain the lead after first-quarter advantages of 4-0 and 12-11, Colorado State’s lead generally stayed in the one- to two-possession range. The Rams never pulled away, but neither did the Aggies press their foe by making a lead-stealing run when the chance was there.
“We felt good about the way that we played,” Finkbeiner said. “Colorado State played their best game of the year that I’ve seen them play, but it’s up to us to beat other teams even on their good days.”
The loss keeps the Aggies in last place in the Mountain West. A win could have propelled USU out of the complete bottom of the standings as it would have potentially created a tie with Air Force, which was one game ahead of the Aggies heading into the contest.