San Jose, Calif. - The San José State women's basketball team struggled throughout the game with a depleted Utah State Aggies squad, but sank four free throws in the final 30 seconds to win 62-58 in both team's Mountain West Conference opener.
Rebecca Woodberry was fouled with 21 seconds to play, sank both free throws to break a 58-58 tie and put the Spartans up 60-58. Then with three seconds left, Chereese Thomas forced Utah State into its 27th turnover of the game and was fouled on the play. Thomas stepped to the charity stripe and calmly drained both free throws to secure the win.
"There are only a couple of good things to take away from this game," said head coach Jamie Craighead. "First of all we ground out a win. A year ago this would have probably been a loss for us. We didn't come close to playing well, but we found a way to get the win. Second, was the emergence of Nyre (Harris). I think the nerves she felt in the first couple of game are over. She took the ball to the basket, which is what we have to do, what everyone has to do."
Harris' 16 points led all scorers while Woodberry and Ta'Rea Cunnigan also reached double digits in the scoring column.
Cunnigan finished the night with 11 points and in doing so passed both Elinor Banks and Cricket Williams to move in to second place on the program's all-time scoring list. She has 1,679 points and is 80 behind Karen Mason, the career scoring leader who finished with 1,760 points.
For the second time in the last three games, the Spartans struggled from the floor. They scored just 23 points in the first half on 9-of-34 shooting (26.5 percent), including just 3-of 17 from 3-point range. Fortunately, Utah State was no better. They hit nine buckets, shot 30 percent and had a 24-23 lead at the break.
The Spartans opened the second half with more energy and defensive pressure. They went on a 9-0 run in just over two minutes, which included three Utah State (3-10, 0-1 MW) turnovers, and turned a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead, 32-24.
But the Aggies, who dressed nine players and played only eight, wouldn't go away. They worked the ball inside and used their height advantage to stay within striking distance. Forwards Franny Vaaulu and Tijana Djukic combined for 27 points, only two of which came from outside the lane, and contributed to a 30-to-18 advantage for Utah State on points in the paint.
Three times in the second half, San Jose State would enjoy an eight-point advantage, but could find their way to a double-digit lead. Up 52-45 with 3:42 to play, the game looked like it was in hand. But after a 5-0 run in just 15 seconds, the lead was down to 52-50.
The game was tied with 2:13 to play, 54-54 on a pair of Utah State free throws. After trading buckets on four successive possessions the teams were still tied 58-58 with 36 seconds to play.
One of the loudest cheers, aside from after the game was won, came when sophomore Emily Schill checked in to the game in the first half. After recovering from a knee injury, it was Schill's first action in more than a year. She played four minutes, grabbed one rebound and had a blocked shot.
The Spartans continue with Mountain West action when they travel to Wyoming to take on the Cowgirls on Saturday afternoon. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. in Laramie, Wyo.
Utah State vs San Jose State
12/31/14 7:00 p.m. at San Jose, Calif. (The Event Center)
At San Jose, Calif. (The Event Center)
SAN JOSE STATE 62, UTAH STATE 58
UTAH STATE (3-10, 0-1 MW)
VAAULU, Franny 6-11 3-4 15; DJUKIC, Tijana 6-14 0-0 12; CLARK, Tilar 3-9 4-5
11; PORTER, Jasmine 2-10 4-4 8; NELSON, Elise 2-6 2-4 6; STRIKAS, Ingrida
1-4 2-2 4; MILES, Mariah 0-2 2-2 2; HUTCHINS, Hannah 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 20-59
SAN JOSE STATE (7-5, 1-0 MW)
Emily 0-0 0-0 0; Ladd, Myzhanique 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-63 13-19 62.
Utah State.................... 24 34 - 58
San Jose State................ 23 39 - 62
3-point goals--Utah State 1-4 (CLARK, Tilar 1-1; PORTER, Jasmine 0-2;
NELSON, Elise 0-1), San Jose State 7-30 (Harris, Nyre 2-3; WOODBERRY,
0-5). Fouled out--Utah State-NELSON, Elise, San Jose State-None.
Rebounds--Utah State 54 (NELSON, Elise 13), San Jose State 33 (CUNNIGAN,
Ta'Rea 7). Assists--Utah State 5 (NELSON, Elise 3), San Jose State 10
(Woodberry, Rebecca 3). Total fouls--Utah State 17, San Jose State 18.
Technical fouls--Utah State-None, San Jose State-None. A-288
Time of Game: 1:47