Not only did Riana Byrd grab her 1,000th career rebound on Saturday, but she also scored the game-winning basket as the clock expired.
Overcoming what could have been a costly turnover late in the fourth quarter, Byrd grabbed a difficult inbounds pass and laid it in as time expired, to give San Jose State a 59-58 win over the visiting New Mexico. This win extended San Jose State’s winning streak to four and improved the record to 10-14 (7-5 Mountain West), while New Mexico fell to 12-11 (5-7 MW). Also, it marks San Jose State’s first-ever win over New Mexico in seven tries dating back to the 1998-99 season, when both schools were in the Western Athletic Conference.
Nyre Harris and Jasmine Smith both had 12 points for the Spartans, with Harris grabbing six rebounds and Smith seven rebounds. Myzhanique Ladd led in rebounding with 12 boards, with Byrd grabbing nine; Byrd needed five rebounds to reach 1,000 in her collegiate career. Leading scorer Dezz Ramos had an outlying, one-for-17 shooting performance but led in assists with five. For the Lobos, Khadijah Shumpert had 14 points and eight rebounds, Bryce Owens 13 points and two rebounds, and Jaisa Nunn 12 points and five rebounds.
San Jose State struggled early and allowed New Mexico to start on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes, before Smith hit a layup to end the Spartans’ scoring drought. San Jose State got within 10-8 with 3:14 left, thanks to blocks by Harris and Ramos supplementing an improved Spartan offense. The first quarter would end with a 16-13 New Mexico lead, after Kianna Keller intercepted a pass by Harris in the waning seconds.
In the second quarter, San Jose State would go on an 18-6 run and lead 31-22 at halftime. It took over five and a half minutes for New Mexico to score in that quarter, with a jumper by Owens. San Jose State twice had scoring droughts of around two minutes. In the third quarter, New Mexico scored 20 points to San Jose State’s 13. A combination of missed free throws and offensive fouls by San Jose State helped New Mexico rally to within 44-42 at the end of three quarters.
“It was a tough third quarter for us,” remarked San Jose State coach Jamie Craighead. “...[New Mexico] got it going a little bit, and we weren’t answering on the other end.”
Cherise Beynon had two key steals in the fourth quarter that gave New Mexico the lead back and extended the lead from one to three. With New Mexico up 52-49 with just over four minutes remaining, Jannon Otto fouled Ramos on a three-point attempt. Ramos made all three free throws to tie the game.
The last four minutes had seven lead changes and two ties. Byrd, who went one-for-six from the free throw line, missed four free throws in the fourth quarter. She also attempted to draw an offensive foul but did not get the call; Shumpert got an offensive rebound and putback jumper to give New Mexico a 54-53 lead with 2:29 remaining. On a layup attempt afterwards, Byrd was called for travelling, in one of three turnovers on her part in the last three minutes.
Some disputed calls would also be crucial to the final result. With 1:35 remaining, Byrd was nearly called for an offensive foul that voided a layup, but the officials changed the call to be a foul on New Mexico’s Alexa Chavez. This allowed San Jose State to go up 55-54, but Byrd missed the and-1 free throw. Then, after Chavez was called for fouling Harris on a defensive rebound, Harris made both free throws to put San Jose State up 57-56 with 18.3 seconds.
The ensuing New Mexico possession led to another call that angered the crowd. With the possession arrow pointed at San Jose State’s direction and a New Mexico and San Jose State player diving for the loose ball, there appeared to be a held ball situation where San Jose State would win possession. Instead, a foul was called against Ramos. This put Laneah Bryan on the free throw line.
Bryan made just one of two free throws, tying the game 57-57 with 7.6 seconds left. Byrd grabbed the rebound off the missed free throw, only to throw a long, fast-break pass straight to Bryan. Ladd then fouled Bryan, who heaved the ball up far beyond the three-point arc in an unsuccessful attempt to draw a shooting foul that would have awarded her three free throws. Bryan again made just one of two free throws, and San Jose State called its final timeout.
With 2.7 seconds remaining, Ladd inbounded the ball to Byrd, who was running towards the basket. Guarding Byrd, Jaisa Nunn deflected the pass while falling out of bounds. (Nunn shares Byrd’s jersey number 44.) Byrd recovered the ball and laid it up against the glass and in as the buzzer sounded, prompting the team to rush midcourt in celebration. The officials upheld the layup after a replay review and awarded San Jose State the 59-58 win.
“[Craighead] just reminded us that we need to playing [and] we don’t give up, as long as there’s time on the clock,” said Byrd. “...She brought us back and was able to tell us what to do, and we executed.”
Byrd became just the second player in team history to have achieved 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. The first was Elinor Banks, who played from 1977 to 1981. Anticipating Byrd reaching this milestone, fans held golden “1,000 + 1,000” signs.
Both teams’ jerseys had pink color schemes, in recognition of the annual Play4Kay Game. Named after Kay Yow, the longtime NC State women’s basketball coach who succumbed to breast cancer in 2009, the event is held at women’s college basketball games nationwide to raise awareness of the disease.
The Spartans go on a two-game road trip this week, playing at Nevada on Wednesday and San Diego State on Feb. 20. Afterwards, the next game will be on Feb. 27, a rematch in San Jose with Utah State.