Honolulu, Hawai'i - The San Jose State women's basketball team (9-14, 4-4 WAC) saved its best for last. In its last Western Athletic Conference (WAC) trip to Hawai'i, the Spartans defeated the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine 67-58 and swept the regular season series for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
"The key to this win was rebounding," head coach Tim La Kose said. "The team stepped up and did a great job on the boards, especially Myesha (Broaden). That was the key, plus we limited our turnovers and shot the ball better.
"It was great to get this win and stay in the top half of the conference standings starting our second time through the WAC."
Broaden, who finished with a 10-point, 12-rebound double double, had 11 defensive boards which contributed to San Jose State limiting Hawai'i (8-15, 3-5 WAC) to just five second chance points on the night.
"As a team we decided that we were going to work hard going for rebounds tonight," Broaden said. "I positioned myself well all night and I went after the ball. They have a couple of big players and if you are going to keep them off the glass, you have to stay low to make sure you have good position and box out. I did that tonight and it showed in the box score."
Hawai'i hit just five buckets in the first 20 minutes and failed to score a field goal in the last 8:43 of the half, but kept the game close by virtue of hitting 12-of-17 shots from the free throw line as the teams went to the locker rooms with San Jose State up 38-25. The Spartans hit on 47 percent of their shots (16-of-34) led by 14 points from the WAC's leading scorer, Brittany Johnson. Johnson would finish a game-high 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
"This was a really big game for us, because we let two get away from us last week," Johnson said. "Every game is important, especially on the road. We want to stay in the top half of the WAC and to do that we have to win on the road. This was a nice win. We lost a tough one in the last minutes here last year so it feels good to get this one tonight. Winning here is not easy."
The Spartans maintained their lead at or near double digits throughout most of the second half. With 2:14 to play a pair of Johnson free throws made the score 63-54 in favor of San Jose State. Then, successive jumpers by Hawai'i's Kalei Adolpho and Breanna Arbuckle cut the margin to five with 1:36 to play.
Broaden got a layup on the Spartans next possession and San Jose State forced a turnover on the Rainbow Wahine's ensuing possession. With 28 seconds to play, Rachel Finnegan nailed a 10-foot baseline jumper to end any chance of a Hawai'i comeback.
"This is the third game in a row where we had a good lead in the second half and our opponent made a run at us," La Kose said. "But where we let things get away from us in the previous two games, tonight we responded better. We were fresher with Palagi (Atoe) in the mix which gives us a little more depth. Our bench played well. Marisa (Williams) and Rachel (Finnegan) played some quality minutes for us on both ends of the court. This was a big step in our path to becoming a better team."
For the game the Spartans out rebounded the Rainbow Wahine 43-to-35 and used that advantage for a 23-to-5 difference on the scoreboard in second chance points. San Jose State dominated the paint out scoring Hawai'i 28-to-12 and shot 82 percent from the free throw line (18-of-22).
The Rainbow Wahine had two players in double figures. Arbuckle and Vicky Tagalicod each had 13 points and for the Spartans Sara Plavljanin had four assists, four steals and scored 10 points.
The Spartans next action will be in Ruston, La. next Thursday, February 16, against the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.