In the first of the final two home games of the season, San Jose State beat Utah State 83-65 on Saturday. With this win, the Spartans have a lock for at least the fifth seed in the final Mountain West standings and a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.
Emily Vann scored 20 points, with 18 coming from six three-pointers, and grabbed four rebounds. Three other players scored in double figures. Dezz Ramos (pictured) had 17 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Paris Baird added 15 points and four rebounds. Nyre Harris had 11 points, two rebounds, and two steals.
For Utah State, Rachel Brewster led with 16 points and eight rebounds. Funda Nakkasoglu, who entered the game averaging 21.8 points, scored just 15. Julianne Anchling had 10 points and two rebounds.
Taking advantage of four early Spartan turnovers and lapses on defending the jump shot, the Aggies took a 20-11 lead halfway in the first quarter. San Jose State tied the game at 25 at the end of the quarter, with Vann making a jumper inside the arc and two three-pointers and Baird making another three. Vann scored a three that followed three offensive rebounds, to get San Jose State within 25-19. After being fouled while making a jump shot, Ramos hit the tying and-1 free throw.
Jasmine Smith gave San Jose State its first lead of the game with a putback layup to open the second quarter. Smith grabbed two rebounds off San Jose State misses for the putback and 27-25 Spartan lead. Utah State soon took the lead back, off a Hannah Hutchins layup and two Brewster jumpers for a 31-27 lead. Off a turnover by Angelica de Paulo, Harris hit a three that put San Jose State up 35-33, and San Jose State would never trail again. In the final four minutes of the second quarter, both teams exchanged baskets to keep the margin tied or within one possession, with Vann scoring two three-pointers. Baird made two threes as well, with the latter putting San Jose State up 47-42 after two Utah State turnovers. Anchling beat the buzzer with a three for Utah State, to reduce San Jose State’s halftime lead to 47-45.
Utah State scored 25 in the first and 20 in the second but just six in the third. San Jose State stretched its lead to 52-45, thanks to a jumper by Ramos and three-ball by Ellie Stevens. For Utah State, jump shots that went in the basket in the first half bounced off or even missed the rim on the other side of halftime. Baird hit a three with 3:41 left in the third to give San Jose State its first double-digit lead, 59-47. Halfway through the fourth quarter, San Jose State took a 70-53 lead after two three-pointers by Vann and another three by Baird. Utah State scored only nine points in the first eight minutes that quarter.
“I didn’t focus so much on getting opportunities for myself,” commented Vann on her three-point shooting that rallied San Jose State from its 20-11 deficit. “My teammates are awesome at getting the ball around, and I had open looks.”
“So when I had those open looks from them, I made sure I converted them,” added Vann.
“We ran more of our matchup defense, so that we could jump switch the ball screens,” explained Craighead about the adjustments made after the 20-11 deficit. “...Our matchup defense allows us to guard people and keep them in front.”
“When we were playing man [defense], we were chasing Funda [Nakkasoglu] around too much, so we were over-helping, and they were getting wide-open looks,” added Craighead.
Craighead also credited the Spartans’ fast-paced game for exhausting Utah State.
“[Utah State] missed some shots because they were tired from the pace,” Craighead said later.
The Spartans’ final home game will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Event Center against Wyoming. Riana Byrd, Nyre Harris, Emily Schill, Ellie Stevens, and Emily Vann will be honored in a pre-game ceremony to mark “Senior Night”.