San Jose, Calif. - Senior guard Sara Plavljanin scored a season and game-high 26 points, including a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line, as the San Jose State women's basketball team won its first game of the year 74-64 over the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks on Thursday night in the Event Center.
"The last two games we were so close to a win, but something was missing," Plavljanin said. "It was confidence. When you have a long losing streak it gets into your head, but today we proved to ourselves that we can win. In the second half we played up to our ability and I know we'll build on this game."
The Spartans (1-6) break a 17-game losing streak, dating back to January of last season, and get the first victory, at San Jose State, for first-year head coach Tim La Kose.
"Wins have been tough to come by and the players have been working really hard," La Kose said. "We have seen improvement everyday and tonight the result reflects the work that has been put in. I hope this is the first of many to come."
In the first half, NAU (4-4) jumped to an early 8-2 lead, but a Brea Matthews jumper and two Ta'Rea Cunnigan free throws made the score 8-6 with 15:10 to play. Cunnigan's free throws were the first of 45 chances the Spartans would get in the game and San Jose State would make 33 of them. Despite shooting just 20 percent (5-of-25)from the field they only trailed 30-24 at the half.
While the Spartans struggled to get their rhythm on offense in the first 20 minutes, their defensive pressure kept them in the game. San Jose State forced 20 turnovers in the first half on their way to 32 on the night. That pressure led to 23 steals, with Cunnigan getting a team and season-high seven.
"We had a more consistent effort on the defensive end,"La Kose said. "Our hands and feet were active; players were communicating which resulted in a lot of turnovers for us, but in the first half we didn't turn them into points."
The Lumberjacks came out in the second half, twice built 10-point leads and with 16:21 to play had a 41-31 advantage. A Rachel Finnegan steal and layup sparked a 10-0 run by San Jose State and three and a half minutes later the game was tied 41-41.
The teams traded buckets until a pair of Matthews free throws gave the Spartans their first lead 51-49 with 7:41 to go.
San Jose State put the Lumberjacks away by out scoring NAU 23-to-15 to close out the game and by sinking 14-straight attempts from the charity stripe. Plavljanin hit eight of them, including the final four to seal the win.
"In the second half we did a much better job in transition," La Kose said. "We attacked the basket, swung it around to get it inside and got a lot of chances from the free throw line."
San Jose State shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half (13-of-21) and 75 percent from the line (21-of-28).
Brittany Johnson continued her double-digit scoring steak with 17 points and a team high eight rebounds. She has hit double-figure scoring in each of the team's seven games.
Northern Arizona's Shay May led the Lumberjacks with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Tyler Stephens-Jenkins added 15 and Aubrey Davis chipped in 10 points.
"We have played some really good teams this year, including Northern Arizona," Plavljanin said who became the first Spartan since Lamisha Augustine in 2006 to hit at least 10 free throws in a game. "If we come out and do what we do well, good things are going to happen."
The Spartans now go for their first road win in since January 2, 2010 when they travel to Ogden, Utah, to face the Weber State Wildcats on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00p.m. in the Dee Event Center.