After starting the season with high hopes coming off the school’s second ever trip to the NCAA Division II national tournament, the Colorado State University-Pueblo women’s basketball team has yet to find their stride.
The heavily favored Pack squeaked out a 66-58 win over the Division III Willamette Bearcats on Friday night at Massari Arena in the team’s hope opener and first game of the Al Kaly Classic.
The team improved to 1-1 against a weak Bearcat squad, and has losses to Montana State-Billings in the season opener and Northern Colorado in a scrimmage.
Michelle Ambuul willed her team to its first victory of the young season falling just one rebound shy of her first college double-double. The senior wing scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds leading the team in both categories while senior Mary Rehfeld also grabbed nine rebounds.
Ambuul was also just one point shy of her career-high in points. She scored 22 in a game against Adams State on Feb. 8 last season.
Pack head coach Kip Drown is confident Ambuul is going to have a break-out year, but was said he was pleasantly surprised by her performance after she didn’t play well in the team’s first two outings.
The ThunderWolves didn’t look like a team coming off an RMAC Shootout championship. They played down to their competition throughout the game against a team that only won five games last year.
The Pack shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the game while the Bearcats made 39 percent of their shots. CSU-Pueblo only hit 20 percent of their shots from 3-point land, which is usually the team’s bread and butter.
Drown blamed the sloppy play on the poor shooting, but he attributed it more to the lack of points in the paint than behind the arc.
“We have to shoot the basketball better,” Drown said. “We missed a lot of shots in the paint. I think we’re playing hard, but it’s our execution and our finish game.”
That inside game might’ve suffered because of a first half injury to the team’s starting post player, 6-foot senior Danielle Pritchett. She hurt her knee late in the opening half after a lay up. The early diagnosis is it might be a stretched ACL.
For most of the game the teams stayed within a few baskets of each other, but late in the second half the ThunderWolves pulled away enough to stave off a late semi-charge by the Bearcats.
CSU-Pueblo will play the second and final game of the Al Kaly Classic Saturday at 5 p.m. at Massari Arena against the Cameron Aggies. The Aggies were 4-23 last season.