With five games remaining before the Mountain West Conference championship tournament, San Jose State women’s basketball enters the final three weeks of the season with a 10-14 (7-5 MW) record and fourth in conference standings, following a four-game winning streak. Last week, San Jose State won a pair of home games, first on Wednesday 69-61 over UNLV then on Saturday 59-58 over New Mexico.
“We’ve got some good momentum going in the last five games,” commented head coach Jamie Craighead on Monday, speaking with Inside the Spartans.
Craighead also credits a challenging out-of-conference schedule with her team’s competitiveness in conference play, despite the team’s 2-9 start to the season with that schedule, as well as achieving four road wins this season after just five combined in the past two seasons.
“There’s a blueprint when you’re trying to build a program,” said Craighead. “A part of that is playing teams in your non-conference schedule that will prepare your team for your conference schedule.”
Sagarin rankings, as of Feb. 14, ranked San Jose State’s strength of schedule as the highest in the Mountain West. This week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll includes three of San Jose State’s non-conference opponents: Saint Mary’s (no. 10), New Mexico State (no. 16), and South Dakota (no. 17). Oregon (19-6, 8-6 Pac-12), who beat San Jose State 104-74 on Nov. 30, received enough votes for the 34th spot in the latest AP poll. San Francisco and Hawaii also currently have winning records, with Hawaii tied for second in the Big West Conference.
This week, San Jose State goes on a two-game road trip, first to Reno to face Nevada (4-19, 3-9 MW) on Wednesday, with a tipoff time of 6:30 p.m. Then on Saturday, the Spartans head to San Diego to face San Diego State (9-15, 4-9 MW) at 2 p.m. Both games will be streamed online at www.sjsuspartans.com/videos. On Sunday, Nevada lost 65-56 to Fresno State in Fresno, after giving the Mountain West’s second-place team quite a scare in the first half, including a 17-0 run in the second quarter that gave Nevada a 31-21 lead.
Craighead commented that Nevada has much size but lacks a strong bench presence due to injuries.
“They’re a tougher team than their record shows,” added Craighead. “...We’ve got to keep them off the free throw line, and it has to be an up-and-down game.”
San Diego State, after a 1-9 start in conference play, has won three straight, including a 65-54 double-overtime road win at Fresno State.
“Sometimes, it’s about peaking at the right time and getting to play well together,” said Craighead, who also praised San Diego State’s roster for having an abundance of talent. Craighead compared San Diego State’s current winning streak with San Jose State’s finish last year that paved the way for San Jose State to advance to the Mountain West tournament semifinals.
“San Diego State is a great transition team, and we can’t give them easy baskets,” added Craighead. She cited defensive breakdowns as contributing to San Diego State erasing a large San Jose State lead, before San Jose State held on to win 78-73 on Jan. 6 in San Jose.
Craighead also described her new, five-strong recruiting class as fulfilling all five basketball positions and her first that includes players who can learn her system in a four-year career.
Roster note: Britta Hall, a freshman starting guard for San Jose State in 2013-14 who went on a two-year LDS church mission after the season, will transfer to Utah Valley for the 2016-17 season. In her one season, Hall started 28 games and led the team in assists with 3.5 per game and had 7.1 points and 2.6 rebounds.