Women's Hoops Opens WAC Play With First-Time Foes

San Jose, Calif. - The San Jose State women's basketball team opens Western Athletic Conference play this week with a pair of opponents they have never faced before.  The Spartans host the Texas State Bobcats on Saturday and then welcome the UTSA Roadrunners on Monday to The Event Center.

vs TEXAS STATE (6-4)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2012, 2:00 P.M.

vs UTSA (6-5)
MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2012, 4:00 P.M.


Fans can view live stats of all San Jose State games by accessing the "Live Stats" feature at www.sjsuspartans.com.  Click on the link at the top of the home page to follow the action.

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Keep up with all 16 San Jose State's team through social media sites Twitter and Facebook.  For Twitter go to @sjsuathletics and on Facebook become friends with Sammy Spartan.

KSJS (90.5 FM, San Jose) originates San Jose State women's basketball home broadcasts. 

Tickets for San Jose State women's basketball home games are free for all SJSU students with a valid student ID.  Adult tickets are $5.00 and $3.00 for youth (12 and under).  A "Spartan 4-Pack", four tickets to any game and fans of any age for $15.00.

Groups of 20 or more can buy discounted tickets at $3.00 per person by 5:00 p.m. the business day before the game via the Spartan Ticket Office at (408) 924-SJTX (7589) or (877) SJSUTIX (757-8849).

The Event Center Box Office opens two hours prior to tip-off for any weekend, holiday game or doubleheader and is open regular business hours (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) for weekday games or doubleheaders.

Parking for all San Jose State women's basketball games is in the University's Seventh Street Parking Garage. The Seventh Street Garage, located on the Northwest corner of San Salvador Street and Seventh Street, can be accessed through Seventh Street.  Parking is $5.00.

San Jose State joined the Western Athletic Conference in the 1996-97 season.  In their 16 conference openers, the Spartans have a 6-10 record and a 3-6 record in home openers.

San Jose State began WAC play last year with an 83-67 win over Hawai'i in The Event Center.  It broke a five-game losing streak for the Spartans in conference openers.  The last WAC opener the program had notched came in the 2005-06 season, 63-51 at Utah State.

Prior to last years victory, it has been since the 2004-05 season that the Spartans opened conference play with a home victory.  They defeated Nevada 73-63 in The Event Center to get WAC play rolling.  

In 11 games this season, the Spartans have put seven different starting line-ups on the court. The quintet who have had the most starts together are Ta'Rea Cunnigan (So., G, Winchester, Calif.), Classye James (So., G, Palo Alto, Calif.), Chereese Thomas (Jr., G, Dublin, Calif.), Riana Byrd (Fr., F, Richmond, Calif.) and Emily Schill (Fr., F, Tecoma, Australia) who have been together at the tip four times.  Every player on the roster has earned at least one start this season.

Through 11 games the Spartans are scoring 65.5 points per game.  That is good fourth in the WAC and 109th in the nation.  The 65.5 points are the most a San Jose State team has scored at this point in the season since the 2003-04 team averaged 69.2. Since head coach Tim La Kose took over the progam last season, the scoring per game has risen by more nearly 20 points per game (46.8-to-65.5).

With an eye on creating defensive pressure, the Spartans are among the best in the nation in taking the ball away from their opponents.  Among 343 Division I schools, the Spartans are ranked 11th in the nation in steals, averaging 12.9 takeaways a game.

Among WAC schools, the Spartans are third in steals with three players ranked in the top-10.  Ta'Rea Cunnigan (So., G, Winchester, Calif.) is averaging 3.91 steals, second in the conference.  Classye James (So., G, Palo Alto, Calif.) and Chereese Thomas (Jr., G, Dublin, Calif.), sixth and ninth in the conference, are are averaging 2.25 and 2.09 steals per game, respectively. 

On a national stage, Cunnigan is eighth-best at picking her opponents pockets.

The Spartans have won three games this season and in each win they outrebounded their opponent and their rebounding total was 47.  In its eight losses, San Jose State has been outrebounded failing to reach 40 boards in all but one of those games, while their opponents have exceeded 40 rebounds in those games.

Riana Byrd (Fr., F, Richmond, Calif.) leads the WAC in blocked shots with 25 overall, an average of 2.27 per game.  Her per game average ranks 28th in the nation.  She has recorded at least one block in each game this year and had a season-high six at USF (12/15), one shy of the program's all-time record.

She is second in the WAC in rebounds per game (9.8) and her 108 total rebounds are the most in the conference.  Her 3.73 offensive rebounds per game ranks second in the league and she is also second in defensive rebounding (6.09).

In a list compiled by Sports Information Directors across America it has been determined that San Jose State is the youngest team in Division I.  The list is based upon the total years played in college (Division I, II, II, NAIA or Junior College) by members of each school's team. 

The Spartans return one player from last season, Ta'Rea Cunnigan (So., G, Winchester, Calif.) who has one year of college experience.  Classye James (So., G, Palo Alto, Calif.) had one year of college experience (Oregon State) before transferring and sitting out last year and Chereese Thomas (Jr., G, Dublin, Calif.) was at Ohlone College for the past two seasons.  That totals four  years of experience on a roster of nine athletes (0.444 years of experience).
Temple and SIU-Carbondale tied for second on the list with 0.727 years of college experience (eight years season on rosters of 11 players).
Trailing 60-59 with 7.8 seconds to play, San Jose State had a chance to win its game against the Cal State Fullerton Titans, but a last second effort came a fraction of a second late and sent the Spartans to defeat in Titan Gym (12/22).

Down 60-56 with 34 seconds to go, Chereese Thomas (Jr., G, Dublin, Calif.) hit a clutch 3-pointer to bring the Spartans to within one.  On the ensuing possession the Titans missed a layup but pulled down their 31st offensive rebound and forced the San Jose State's Jayzyl Tauala (Fr., G, Pacifica, Calif.) to foul and stop the clock.

"We fouled the right player," said head coach Tim La Kose.  "She missed the free throw and (after a scramble for the rebound), Riana (Byrd) dove on the loose ball to give us the last possession."

Thomas, took the inbounds pass and drove up the right sideline.  She passed to Ta'Rea Cunnigan (So., G, Winchester, Calif.) who drove to the hoop and released the ball a fraction of a second after the final buzzer went off.  The shot went in, but didn't count.

Cunnigan's finished 18 points led San Jose State.  Riana Byrd (Fr., F, Richmond, Calif.) picked up her third double double of the year with 12 points and 12 rebounds. 

The Bobcats are 6-4 after dropping their last game 74-61 at Houston last Saturday. 

Texas State is outscoring opponents by 3.8 points per game (75.6-to-71.8) while outshooting them from the field and from behind the 3-point line. 
The Bobcats have four players who are averaging double figures in scoring led by senior guard Diamond Ford who is averaging 20.4 points (second in the WAC).  Ashley Ezeh, a junior forward, is scoring 16.7 points per game and leads the conference in rebounding (10.0/game).  Jasmine Baugus, a junior guard, is at 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while Erin Peoples leads the team in steals and is scoring 10.2 points per outing.

Zenarae Antoine is in her second season leading the Texas State women's basketball program.  Entering 2012-13 she had a 17-14 record.

This will be the first meeting between these two programs.  Texas State is 2-3 on the road this season.

The Roadrunners are 6-5 to start the week and will play at Utah State on the 29th before facing the Spartans on New Year's Eve in The Event Center. 

UTSA is averaging 59.7 points and holding their opponents to just 49.8 per game and .305 shooting from the floor. 

The Roadrunners are led by senior guard Simone Young who is averaging 10.4 points, 2.5 assists and ranks second on the team with 2.45 assists.  Kamra King, a sophomore guard, is scoring 9.0 points per game and leads the in steals (2.2/game).  Whitney Wright, a senior center, is at 5.5 rebounds and 18 blocks, both lead the team and scores 5.1 points per outing.

Rae Rippetoe-Blair is in her 13th season leading the Roadrunners women's basketball program.  Entering 2012-13 she had an overall record of 307-203 and a 200-159 record at UTSA.

This will be the first meeting between these two programs.  UTSA is 0-4 away from home this season.