Tuesday marked the final game at the Event Center for the San Jose State Spartans’ four seniors: Riana Byrd, Nyre Harris, Ellie Stevens, and Emily Vann. For their home finale before a near-1,200 crowd in San Jose, the Spartans beat the Wyoming Cowgirls 65-51.
Dezz Ramos led the Spartans in scoring with 15 points, while adding two rebounds and four assists. Harris had her third career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists. Stevens, Myzhanique Ladd, and Jasmine Smith each scored eight points. Byrd had six points, six rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Vann had five points and three rebounds.
For Wyoming, Marta Gomez had 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists. Natalie Baker had 10 points, nine rebounds, and an assist. Marquelle Dent, a first-team All-Mountain West honoree in 2015, entered as Wyoming’s leading scorer, averaging 16 points a game. On Tuesday, Dent made just two of 12 field goal attempts and scored only five points.
Wyoming committed five turnovers in the first five minutes as San Jose State took a 13-3 lead halfway through the first quarter. Ladd deflected one inbounds pass by Wyoming out of play and intercepted a bounce pass from Dent, then made the assist to Ramos for a three-pointer and 11-3 lead.
However, Gomez provided the spark for a Wyoming rally, starting with a block of a Paris Baird jump shot. Wyoming took the ball the other way for a wide-open Gomez layup that pulled Wyoming within 16-9 with slightly over two minutes left in the first quarter. Just 15 seconds in the second quarter, Gomez hit a three-pointer to shrink Wyoming’s deficit to 18-14, then another one off a Hailey Ligocki offensive board and assist to get Wyoming within 18-17. As San Jose State’s shots landed off-target, Wyoming’s offense chugged along to a 17-2 run that put Wyoming ahead 26-20 just inside the 6:00 mark before halftime.
Following a timeout, Byrd and Ramos made layups to shrink Wyoming’s lead to 26-24, and Wyoming struggled to score as San Jose State swarmed ball handlers with double- and even triple-teams. Gomez responded with her third and final three-point basket of the night. The Spartan defense held tough, as Stevens won a possession for SJSU by creating a held-ball situation with Ligocki with around 3:00 left. This led to a Ramos jumper that pulled San Jose State within 29-26, and Baird hit a tying three with 1:33. The score remained 29-29 at halftime, after Harris missed a desperate three-point jumper that followed Wyoming nearly getting a steal. Smith could not score on a putback attempt.
In its first possession of the second half, Wyoming committed a turnover, after Natalie Baker travelled in the paint while guarded by Stevens. San Jose State then scored eight unanswered points, off three-pointers by Harris and Stevens and a layup by Smith. Stevens scored her three-pointer after both teams juggled around a loose ball in the paint, with Harris regaining control for San Jose State. Baker stopped Wyoming’s bleeding with a jumper to get them within 37-31, but San Jose State extended its lead by nine off a Harris three. Wyoming rallied to shrink San Jose State’s lead to 44-39. That would be as close as Wyoming would come, as San Jose State responded with six unanswered points to close the third quarter, capped by a running layup by Harris to put the Spartans up 50-39 as the clock hit zeroes.
Wyoming kept within 10 early in the fourth quarter, thanks to buckets by Marquelle Dent and Liv Roberts. However, as Wyoming missed eight straight field goals after trailing 54-44, San Jose State ran away in the fourth quarter to a 65-45 lead with just under 2:30 remaining. SJSU made over 55% of field goal attempts in the second quarter, compared to 25% for Wyoming, in addition to out-rebounding the Cowgirls 40-34.
“The timing was good, but there were plenty of other plays that were just as important,” commented Stevens about her held-ball situation that forced a Wyoming turnover with Wyoming up 29-24 in the second quarter. With the possession arrow favoring San Jose State, that play by Stevens prevented Wyoming from leading by as many as eight.
“We all had the same feeling that we needed to come out and play harder,” added Stevens about the 29-29 halftime tie.
“Our kids don’t care about the scoreboard and other teams’ runs,” remarked Craighead. “It’s a testament to who they are...really resilient.”
“[Wyoming] hit some tough shots,” added Craighead. “...They have quality players, and they are a great three-point shooting team. We got caught on some screen action that they run. They got some open looks.”
San Jose State improves to 13-15 (11-6 MW), while Wyoming drops to 13-15 (6-12 MW) and remains tied for third place in the conference with Boise State. On Friday, San Jose State wraps up the regular season with a road game at Boise State, with the winner earning sole possession of the number-three seed in next week’s Mountain West tournament.
Notes: Jasmine Smith and her brother Jonathan sang the national anthem before player introductions...Also on Tuesday, Boise State beat Nevada 64-61 in overtime to stay tied for third in the Mountain West.