Battle for 1st: What to know about CSU women's huge Mountain West basketball game vs. UNLV

Colorado State senior guard McKenna Hofschild (4) makes a layup against New Mexico at Moby Arena on Jan. 7.
Colorado State senior guard McKenna Hofschild (4) makes a layup against New Mexico at Moby Arena on Jan. 7.

It's the biggest game of the regular season.

The Colorado State women's basketball team plays the third and most important game of a three-game homestand Saturday, Jan. 21 when the Rams host UNLV at 1 p.m.

CSU has already beat the Mountain West's third-place team, San Diego State, 71-58 and sixth-place Nevada 84-67 at Moby Arena this week.

Saturday brings defending league champ UNLV to Fort Collins.

Here's what to know about the matchup.

What's at stake

CSU (13-5, 6-1 MW) and UNLV (18-2, 8-0 MW) are the top two teams in the league. UNLV won an OT thriller 91-89 in Las Vegas over CSU early in conference play.

A CSU win Saturday would pull the Rams even with UNLV in the loss column, while a UNLV win would put the visitors in pole position to win the regular season conference title.

Battle of the stars

The top players in the league will be on the floor.

CSU is led by All-America candidate McKenna Hofschild, who not only leads the Mountain West but is 10th in the nation in scoring at 21.5 points per game. She's third in the country in assists per game (7.4) and likely the leading candidate for Mountain West Player of the Year as the engine on a CSU offense that is 20th in the nation in scoring (79 points per game).

All-American campaign:How CSU basketball's McKenna Hofschild is putting up Becky Hammon numbers for the Rams

Her top competitor for the POY award is probably UNLV's 6-foot-1 center Desi-Rae Young, who is second in the league in scoring at 18 points per game and first in rebounding at 10.4 per game.

They won't face each other head-to-head, per se, but Hofschild and Young are superstars.

Who else to watch

While Hofschild is the top name for CSU, she's far from alone. The Rams have a roster to complement her, with rebounders, shooters and creators who can space the floor.

Destiny Thurman dropped 29 points on 6-for-8 3-point shooting in Thursday's win over Nevada, and she's third in the league in scoring. Meghan Boyd is a consistent 3-point shooter, Cali Clark cleans up the boards (she had 14 rebounds Thursday) and Sydney Mech provides defensive versatility.

How to go, for cheap

For a top-level game, fans and their families can make it an outing for an affordable price. Tickets are available at for as low as $6 for an individual ticket, and lower-level, center-court tickets are as low as $9.

A special deal through the CSU site has tickets on sale for $3 using the code "1vs2" online.

NCAA Tournament chances

The Mountain West is often a one-bid league, with the winner of the conference tournament in March heading to the NCAA Tournament. It was the case last season when UNLV beat CSU in a title-game thriller in Las Vegas to take the bid.

It could come down to those teams again. Bracketologists currently have the MW as a one-bid league.

But both are lingering on the periphery of the at-large conversation, with CSU at No. 62 in NET ranking and UNLV at No. 59. It's safe to say a win Saturday would be big for either squad.

Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on Twitter and Instagram @Kevin_Lytle.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: What to know, how to get cheap tickets for Mountain West basketball battle