Stellar defense and timely shooting in the second half helped Colorado State University-Pueblo prevail over Adams State College 47-46 on Friday night at Massari Arena.
Sophomore point guard Rachel Espinoza led the ThunderWolves with 14 points, including the eventual game-winning bucket with 1:10 left in the contest.
As the shot clock was running down, Espinoza was able to split two Adams State defenders in the lane and hit an off-balance underhanded scoop shot.
“I probably shouldn’t have shot the ball because there was a girl in front of me and I had an open teammate on the wing,” Espinoza said. “I really didn’t think it went in. I’m just happy and really fortunate that it actually went in.”
Adams State had two opportunities to win the game on its final possession, but was denied by an aggressive ThunderWolves defense.
Mary Rehfeld forced a jump ball with nine seconds remaining in the game. With the possession arrow in their favor, the Grizzlies retained possession of the ball, but standout guard Vera Jo Bustos came up short on a 10-foot-jumper from the right wing.
“We had seen their last minute shot against Fort Lewis, and when they ran the same set we were prepared for that,” Espinoza said. “We wanted to switch everything, but Bustos being as good as she is got open and got the shot off. Fortunately for us she didn’t make it.”
Despite being outrebounded 44-32 in the game by Adams State, the ThunderWolves were able to snare the most important rebound of the game to secure the win.
In a sloppy first half marred by missed shots and turnovers, Adams State closed out the half with a 10-0 run to take a 27-19 lead into the locker room. The Grizzlies pushed the lead to 10 early in the second half before senior guard Shandryn Trumble hit a 3-pointer with 15:30 left in the game to cap a 7-0 ThunderWolves run that cut the lead to three.
With leading scorer Michelle Ambuul struggling from the field, Trumble picked up the offensive slack by scoring a career-best 13 points.
“I just went out there and played as hard as I could to help the team win,” Trumble said.
Even though they shot just 30 percent from the field for the game, the ThunderWolves were able to stay in the game because of their pressure defense.
They forced 10 turnovers and completely shut down the Grizzlies three-point attack in the second half. After shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, Adams State was unable to sink a 3-pointer in the second half, finishing 0-for-6.
Bustos led the Grizzlies with 20 points.
CSU-Pueblo has now beaten Adams State 17 out of the last 18 meetings.
The win improved the ThunderWolves record to 12-6 overall and 6-4 in RMAC play. The Pack will be put to the test Saturday when they take on the high-flying Fort Lewis Skyhawks who boast a 16-1 record and have won 14 straight games.