The ThunderWolves were victorious in a defensive struggle Friday night at Massari Arena.
Michelle Ambuul led Colorado State University-Pueblo with 15 points and 11 rebounds as the ThunderWolves improved their record to 18-8 with the 57-49 win over Western State College.
Mary Rehfeld buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:26 remaining in the game to put the ThunderWolves up by six points and thwart the Western State comeback bid.
“It was a much needed shot,” Rehfeld said. “Our shots weren’t really falling but we had some great defensive effort from everyone. Defensively, everyone showed up and played tonight.”
Rehfeld had been 0 for 6 from beyond the 3-point arc before connecting on the clutch shot.
After building their largest lead of the game with 8:11 left in the game at 42-29, the ThunderWolves went cold from the field and Western State responded with a 17-7 spurt to pull within three points on two free throws from Brooke Pendergraft.
The ThunderWolves held Western State’s leading scorer Amber Murray to six points on 2 of 10 shooting from the field.
“We kept Murray and Pendergraft in front of us and when we keep them in front of us we have a much better chance of containing them,” CSU-Pueblo coach Kip Drown said.
Murray torched CSU-Pueblo for 33 points in the teams’ matchup last month in Gunnison, Colo,. Western State won the Jan. 23 contest 78-67.
CSU-Pueblo’s defense was aggressive early. The ThunderWolves shut down the Western State offensive attack in the first half, holding the Mountaineers to two points during a nine-minute stretch to build a 16-7 lead with 6:40 left in the half.
CSU-Pueblo was able to get to the foul line early and often. Despite shooting only 7-for-21 from the field in the first half, the ThunderWolves knocked down 10 of their 13 free throw attempts to take a 25-19 halftime lead.
Center Caitlyn Jewell provided a spark off the CSU-Pueblo bench, scoring six points and controlling the glass with six rebounds.
Free throws were the difference down the stretch. The Mountaineers had many chances at free points to cut into the CSU-Pueblo lead, but came up empty on several attempts and finished the game shooting 10-for-18 from the charity stripe. CSU-Pueblo was consistent throughout the contest and in the last minute, finishing 19-for-26.
With one game remaining in the regular season, the ThunderWolves conference record stands at 12-6. A victory against Mesa State on Saturday night will secure the Pack a first-round home game in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference postseason tournament on Tuesday night.
“I told the kids that tonight doesn’t mean anything if we don’t finish the job tomorrow,” Drown said. “We control our destiny. All we have to do is win tomorrow and we get a home game in the playoffs.”
Saturday’s final regular season home game will feature an appearance by Denver Nuggets mascot Rocky on “take your kid to a game” night.