Riana Byrd led San Jose State in rebounds but missed five free throws and a potential go-ahead shot in the waning minutes. Dezz Ramos had a chance to make two free throws to tie the game with just under two seconds in regulation, only to miss the front end.
Stacked up, these mistakes were but a few factors in letting Colorado State survive an upset bid and remain undefeated in Mountain West Conference play, with an 80-78 win over San Jose State. Dropping to 6-14 (4-5 MW), San Jose State lost its fourth in a row.
For San Jose State, Ramos led the team in scoring with 18 points and also made four rebounds. Paris Baird had a season-high 15 points, in addition to three rebounds. Ellie Stevens scored 10 points and grabbed a rebound, for her third double-digit scoring performance of the season. Byrd had only 5 points but led the team in rebounding with 15, and Jasmine Smith had eight rebounds and eight points.
Colorado State had four players scoring in double figures. Jamie Patrick scored 18 points and two rebounds; 15 of her points came from three-pointers. Keyora Wharry had 16 points and five rebounds, Elin Gustavsson had 14 points and five rebounds, and Ellen Nystrom had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Defense kept San Jose State in the game early. After Myzhanique Ladd was called for a Flagrant 1 foul after tripping Alana Arias, Arias made one of two technical free throws to put Colorado State up 13-9. On the ensuing possession awarded by the technical, under pressure by Emily Vann, Colorado State’s Veronika Mirkovic heaved a long pass over Hannah Tvrdy. Paris Baird swiped the loose ball, and Vann would hit a three from the right corner. After a layup by Byrd, Ellen Nystrom inbounded to Tvrdy, only for Ramos to slap the ball out and set up the offense for a Baird jumper to put San Jose State up 16-13. After a timeout, Colorado State ended the first quarter with a 24-18 lead, holding San Jose State to just 2 points in the final 3:17. Both points were off free throws by Smith.
In the second quarter, San Jose State held Colorado State to four-of-16 shooting and 11 points, while scoring 24 points with eight-for-16 shooting. Guarded by two defenders and with 45 seconds to go before halftime, Smith hit a jumper that bounced around the rim and in to put San Jose State up 42-35. On Colorado State’s ensuing possession, Smith knocked the ball away from Emilie Hesseldal as Hesseldal dribbled up the court. Hesseldal scrambled to recover the ball and tried a desperation pass to Callie Kaiser, only for the ball to bounce off Kaiser and out of play. However, Ramos bricked a three-point attempt, to keep the score 42-35 at the buzzer.
Soon, San Jose State would run out of answers, as Colorado State’s offense came out recharged in the third quarter. Patrick hit three three-pointers in the first three minutes of that quarter and also made three free throws after being fouled on a deep shot attempt. These points combined with some San Jose State misses helped Colorado State get back on top, 55-54 with 4:27 left. The teams would exchange buckets, but San Jose State would come out 63-61 at the end of the quarter, off a buzzer-beating three by Ladd.
Ramos scored the first 7 points of the fourth quarter to put San Jose State up 70-64 with 7:22 left in regulation. Colorado State would exploit seven straight missed San Jose State shots for 7 unanswered points of its own. Following a Colorado State inbounds pass that sailed high and out of bounds, Ramos stopped the bleeding by making a three-pointer to put San Jose State up 73-71 with 3:42 left.
The last 90 seconds of the game showed painful missed opportunities for San Jose State. After Byrd hit a free throw to tie the game at 78, Byrd bricked the second free throw. Byrd got the free throws after being fouled on a layup; her attempt went off glass and over the rim before falling out. With 55 seconds left, Hesseldal hit a deep jumper to put Colorado State up 80-78. Ramos missed a potential tying jumper, and Byrd missed a putback. Nystrom air-balled her attempt at a game-ending three-pointer, and Ramos was fouled as she attempted a jumper with 1.8 seconds left. With the chance to tie the game with two free throws and having made her first four from the charity stripe, Ramos missed the front end, and San Jose State could not rebound for a game-tying putback after Ramos intentionally missed the second.
“They found their open player well, they found their shooters well, and we didn’t close out to the ones we needed to at times,” commented Baird about Colorado State’s second-half rally.
“We just let some possessions go, and we shot really terrible from the free throw line. It hurt us,” added San Jose State coach Jamie Craighead.
Craighead also observed that Colorado State had problems handling San Jose State’s jump-switch defense.
“To keep [Colorado State] off balance and keep them wondering if we’re going to jump...I thought we did a great job staying up.”
The coach also praised San Jose State’s disciplined ball-handling that generated a season-low six turnovers.
“The game was at our pace, and we made [Colorado State] play our way.”
Despite San Jose State dropping to below .500 in conference play, Craighead feels confident about the future schedule.
“We feel really good about what’s left on our schedule. I know we’ve played at really tough places...we just gotta be ready to go.”
Of the nine remaining regular season games, six are against teams that currently do not have winning conference records: Air Force (Saturday on the road), UNLV (Feb. 10, home), Nevada (Feb. 17, road), San Diego State (Feb. 20, road), Utah State (Feb. 27, home), and Wyoming (Mar. 1, home).
Aniya Baker left the team after the Nov. 30 game at Oregon, for personal reasons. It is unclear if Baker, a fourth-year student, is enrolled for the spring semester.
Kalie Matthews is expected to be out two weeks due to injury; she has sat out all the conference games.
Emily Schill has been sidelined all season due to injury and is likely to retire from basketball. A fourth-year student majoring in early childhood development, Schill is on track to graduate in May. Although she started 27 games in her first year in 2012-13, Schill played only five games in 2014-15, all off the bench and averaging only around 6 minutes. Having taken a medical redshirt in 2013-14, Schill is eligible for a fifth year of play in 2016-17.
Rachol West, who injured her ankle in the Jan. 20 game vs. Boise State, is out four to six weeks.