San Jose, Calif. - The San Jose State women's basketball team had four players reach double figure scoring, led by Brittany Johnson's 22-point, 12-rebound double-double, as the Spartans (6-10, 1-0 WAC) won their Western Athletic Conference opener 83-67 over the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine (5-11, 0-1 WAC) on Saturday night in the Event Center.
The victory marks the first time since the 2005-06 season that San Jose State has won its conference opener and Johnson, the nation's 24th leading scorer, extended her consecutive streak of double digit scoring to open the season to 16 games.
Reigning WAC Player of the Week Sara Plavljanin had 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Freshman Ta'Rea Cunnigan had 14, including going 8-of-8 from the free throw line, and Sophomore Brea Matthews scored a career-high 12 point and grabbed five rebounds.
"I played pretty well tonight, but I always feel that I can play better," Matthews said. "My stomach was bothering me before the game, but my teammates urged me to play through it and I really fed off their support. With team's focusing on trying to stop Brittany (Johnson) and Sara (Plavljanin), the rest of us are going to get good looks at the basket. The coaches have told us to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities and tonight I was able to."
The team's played evenly through the first 12 minutes of the game. With 7:27 to go before the half, a Marisa Williams layup tied the game 18-18. Williams would finish with five points, tying her career-high.
The Spartans ended the half on a 21-to-10 run, led by 10 points from Johnson, and took a 39-28 lead into the locker room. San Jose State shot 41 percent from the field (12-of-29) and held Hawai'i to 36 percent (11-of -30).
In the second half San Jose State pushed its lead to 20 points, 59-39, with 9:29 to play. But, a 9-0 Hawai'i run, led by five points from Sydney Haydel, cut the advantage to 11 points with seven minutes to play.
"We have to work on not letting teams back into games," Matthews said. "It has happened to many times this year. If we are going to be successful and take the next step, we have to put teams away when we have the chance."
In the final 6:37 the Spartans knocked down 14-of-16 free throw attempts and pushed their advantage back to 20-points in the final minute before taking the 16-point win. This is the biggest margin of victory against Hawai'i since a 73-45 win in 2003-04.
San Jose State had its best night of the year from the free throw line, shooting a season-high 82 percent as they made 28 of their 34 attempts.
Hawai'i had three players in double figures led by 17 points from Haydel. Breanna Arbuckle and Vicky Tagalicod had 11 and 10 points, respectively. Kamilah Jackson led the Rainbow Wahine with 13 rebounds and added eight points.
"The crowd support tonight was outstanding," head coach Tim La Kose said. "We had a youth clinic prior to the game. All those kids then came to watch us and really made it a home court advantage. We hope that when the students get back they will come out and give us as much support as we got tonight."
The Spartans return to action on January 19 when they host New Mexico State. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. in the Event Center.