San Jose, Calif. - In an eerie similarity to its Thursday night's game against Utah State, the San Jose State women's basketball team had a lead in the last minute against the Idaho Vandals (7-16, 2-5 WAC), only to see it slip away on a 3-pointer with 54 seconds to play sending the Spartans (8-13, 3-4 WAC) to a 67-63 Western Athletic Conference loss on Saturday night in The Event Center.
Holding a 63-60 lead with 1:53 to play, the Spartans saw Idaho's Alyssa Charlton, who finished with a 14 point, 16 rebounds double double, hit a jumper to cut the San Jose State lead to one point. Then with 54 seconds to go, Tayler Weiks canned a 3-pointer to give the Vandals a two-point advantage. The Spartans missed a 3-pointer of their own with 39 seconds to play and then the front end of a one-and-own with five seconds to go, which could have tied the game. The Vandals closed out the game with a pair of free throws with four seconds left to seal the 67-63 win.
The Spartans got 15 points and nine rebounds from Brittany Johnson and 14 points from Palagi Atoe, who saw game action for just the second time since the team's game at Utah Valley on January 5.
"Since I was told I was cleared to play, I have been working out three times a day to get back into game shape," Atoe said. "I'm happy with the way I played tonight, but my focus is on helping this team to get better. The losses (78-73 to Nevada on Thursday night and tonight) are heart wrenching. We know we're a better team than what we have shown these last two games. But, we will take this as a learning lesson...failure before success... and we'll get better. We have seen everyone in the WAC once and know what they do well and where we can improve. We will get better and make sure this doesn't happen again."
The teams were very similar on the score sheet, with the exception of Idaho launching 32 of their team's 67 shots from behind the 3-point line.
"Idaho's strength is their inside game," head coach Tim La Kose said. "We wanted to limit their looks inside and force them to shoot from the outside. We did a pretty good job of that, but they hit some big shots, especially the three in the final minute."
San Jose State took a 31-27 lead into the locker rooms after a half in which the lead changed four times. The Spartans jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on 3-pointers from Ta'Rea Cunnigan, who finished the night with 13 points, and Sara Plavljanin. But, as quickly as San Jose State got the lead, the Vandals came right back with a 7-to-0 streak of their own. Krissy Karr hit a three and Keri Arendse got a layup in the run. Both players finished the night with 13 points.
Idaho pushed its lead to 15-10, on a Stacy Barr three-point play with just under 12 minutes to go in the half. Atoe and Plavljanin sparked a 7-to-0 run to give the lead back the San Jose State at 17-15, before taking a four-point lead at halftime.
A pair of Johnson free throws with 13:41 to play gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the night 49-40, but an 11-to-3 Idaho streak cut the advantage to one, 52-51 with 10:06 to play. The teams battled back and forth for the next nine minutes with the lead changing four times and the game being tied three times before the Wieks trey in the final minute gave Idaho a lead they would not relinquish.
"We didn't play with enough intensity tonight," Sara Plavljanin said. "Twice this week we had chances to close teams out and win games, but we didn't get it done either time. We will get back in the gym and clean things up and get back after it next week."
San Jose State, who retired the jersey of men's basketball legend Darnell Hillman on Saturday night, returns to action on Saturday, February 11 against the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Tipoff is set for 5:00 p.m. (HT).