San José State Sets Record in 99-85 Win over Utah State
By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com
LAS VEGAS - San José State scored 99 points for the second straight game in Las Vegas, as the Spartans defeated Utah State, 99-85, in the opening round of the 2015 Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship at the Thomas and Mack Center.
The Spartans’ 99 points is a first-round record for points scored, while it also sets an all-time record for points scored in a Mountain West tournament game, breaking the record Colorado State set last season, with 95 points.
No. 8 seed San José State now faces the conference's top-seed, Colorado State, on Tuesday at Noon.
San José State (14-16), which closed its regular season last Friday, with a 99-97 win at UNLV, carried its hot hand into the postseason to earn its first-ever victory since joining the MW in 2013-14.
Spartans senior forward Rebecca Woodberry followed bured eight 3-pointers for the second consecutive game, as she was 8 of 11 from beyond the 3-point line, part of a 9-for-15 performance. Woodberry led San José State with 26 points, while senior guard Ta'Rea Cunnigan added 25.
SJSU took a whopping 83 shots from the field, hitting 36 of them, while shooting 14 of 35 from long range.
"We shot the ball really well," San José State coach Jamie Craighead said. "That's probably the biggest 3-point, you know, shooting night we've had since Friday, so it was great. When we're clicking and Becca is hitting shots, Tea is getting to the rim, getting pull-up jumpers, it makes our offense so much easier. It loosens the shoulders of all of our bench players. It was a tremendous performance by two seniors and a great team effort."
Using its interior prowess to dominate the paint, Utah State used a 14-3 run early in the game to build a 20-11 lead just six minutes into the game. But after starting the game shooting 8 of 11 from the field, the Aggies were a dismal 4 of 19 the rest of the half.
"We were focused on keeping up the pressure, not worrying about the score, just playing our game, following our game plan," Woodberry said. "The key was just for us to move well on offense and get better spacing. We've been really practicing our spacing in our practices, so it's helped a lot."
San José State quickly took advantage of the Aggies' poor shooting, and went on 29-12 run to close the first half and take a 40-32 lead into the locker room at the break.
"We all have the green light, if we want to take the first open shot, that's always been our game plan every game in" Cunnigan said. "When we get going, we start sharing the ball and moving the ball and everybody starts to heat up."
A dry spell about midway through the second half allowed the Aggies to pull within three, at 57-54 with 13:40 left in the game, but Aniya Baker drained a 3-pointer, Riana Byrd hit two free throws and Cunnigan completed a three-point play to push the Spartans' lead to 65-56 with 11:29 left in the game.
Utah State refused to go away, and stayed within five until the Spartans used an 8-0 run - sparked by 3-pointers by Cunnigan and Rachol West - to put the game out of reach by moving ahead, 75-62, with 9:04 left in the game.
"We made two good stabs in the second half to cut it to five, but we put a lot of energy into it," Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "Their kids came back and hit another three and another three. Buried us the two times we made stabs in the second half."
The Aggies shot 28 of 64 (43.8 percent) from the field, including an abysmal 3 of 18 (16.7) from 3-point range. Utah State had four players score in double figures and was led by Funda Nakkasoglu's 26 points. Tilar Clark added 6, while Tijana Djukic has 12 and Elise Nelson scored 10.
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG