Cedar City, Utah. - Brittany Johnson scored a career-high 28 including three of San Jose State's final four points as the Spartans held on to win 70-68 over the Southern Utah University (SUU) Thunderbirds on Tuesday night in the Centrum Arena.
With 11 seconds to play and the Spartans leading by one, Johnson, who averages 19.3 points per game and is the 24th-ranked scorer in the nation, hit the back end of two free throws to give the San Jose State (4-10) a two-point advantage.
Southern Utah (4-10) then had two chances to tie or win the game. Myesha Boaden blocked the first attempt, a jumper in the paint. After an offensive rebound, Carlie Moreland missed a layup as time expired. Moreland finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds for SSU.
"For us, the difference tonight was defense, turnovers and points off turnovers," head coach Tim La Kose said. "We forced 27 turnovers and converted them into 30 points."
SUU built a 10-point lead in the first six and a half minutes on 67 percent shooting and still had a five-point advantage with 5:00 minutes to go before halftime. But a change in defense to a matchup zone sparked San Jose State which forced eight turnovers and turned a 26-21 deficit into a 37-28 halftime lead.
San Jose State's 16-2 run to close the first 20 minutes was led by three Sara Plavljanin 3-pointers and seven points from Johnson. Plavljanin finished the night with 15 points, six assists and eight steals. The six assists and eight steals are career-highs for Plavljanin.
The Spartans built a 15-point lead with 15:19 to play in the second half only to watch the Thunderbirds chip away at the advantage. They narrowed the lead to one with 2:01 to go and again with 12 second left before San Jose State came away with the win.
Ta' Rea Cunnigan had her eighth double digit scoring night with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting including a steal and layup with 1:25 to play. Broaden led the Spartans with eight rebounds and had six points.
Kimie Hawkins had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunderbirds who out rebounded San Jose State 52-to-37. Hailey Mandelko added 14 points.
The Spartans wrap up non-conference play on Thursday, in Orem, Utah when they face the Utah Valley Wolverines. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. (MT).