Get out to the Rec. Center and make some noise! Thursday night's game against La Tech could be the best game played on campus, for men or women, all season long.
If you even had a mild interest to watch the Lady Spartans, this is the game. A monumental, maybe even program-defining game for San Jose State's Women's basketball program. For the first time since La Tech joined the WAC, our girls can go toe-to-toe and really compete with one of the premier programs in the nation.
Outside of being the school that produced Terry Bradshaw and Karl Malone, La Tech is best known for their Women's basketball team. Consistently in the top 10, the Lady Techsters have simply dominated the WAC for the last four years.
With 22 straight NCAA tournament appearances and averaging an astonishing 28 wins a season, they are without a doubt one of top women's basketball programs in the country. They have also made 16 final four appearances and won three national titles.
What makes these numbers more incredible is that they were accomplished within the last thirty years.
Since joining the WAC, the Lady Techsters have really put a hurt on the Spartans, too. Outside of the Spartan's hard fought seven point loss at the Event center last year, La Tech has beaten the Spartans by average of almost 40 points a game.
But this year is different; the Lady Techsters are slightly down this year (ranked a uncustomary-low #12) and the Spartans are riding high. Coach Richards has worked hard recruiting the right players and putting them in the right position to succeed.
She is destined for bigger and better things, and is probably the hottest coaching prospect at San Jose State right now.
State scheduled a moderately easy preseason, but they really kicked butt. They cruised in most of their victories with double-digit wins, plus a program-best eight game winning streak. But, to me, what has been most impressive so far was that even after laying an egg in Fresno and getting womped by 42 points, the team bounced back the very next game and womped Hawaii at home by nearly 30.
Still, La Tech will be hard to beat. They have much more talent than the Spartans and superior speed. They come at you in waves of athletes. They scheduled a typically hard preseason: at Illinois, at # 3 Tennessee, at # 6 Penn State. They are battle-tested and very confident.
It's really a team that can go into Maples and knock off the Lady Cardinal. They are that good. They expect to win the WAC. Plus, the team is mad: they already have a conference loss against a very good Rice team; so expect them to come in and get even. This is a very important game for them, too.
Probable Match ups: Trina Frierson (6-2) V. Tatiana Taylor (6-0) La Tech's Frierson is a true power forward. She will be playing in the WNBA next season, probably a very high draft pick. She has great post-up moves, makes the easy put-back and can knock down shots within 15 feet.
Great all-around skills. A really tough player to defend, because she is so athletic and long. Not a good free throw shooter.
The senior Taylor is the Spartans leading scorer and rebounder. Very similar skills to Frierson; maybe a better shooter, but not quite the passer. She will have her hands full with Frierson, but she usually draws the toughest frontcourt assignment. Nice all-around skills, she can really do it all.
This is a marquee match up and worth the price of admission.
Amisha Carter 6-2 V. Lamisha Augustine 6-1 Frierson's frontcourt partner Carter is also an all-around talent; however, she has more power. Team leader in rebounds and shot blocks.
She is also quicker than most players her size, coming up with at least a couple of steals a game. She is an Oakland native, so she'll have plenty of boosters out at the game. Augustine matches up well with Carter; maybe a better shooter, but not as strong.
Unlike Carter, Augustine can step out and shoot the three. The Spartans might start the 6-4 Nica Gemo against Carter. The junior has seen a lot of minutes and is really coming into her own. Next year, the combination of Augustine and Gemo is going to make a quite devastating frontcourt.
Erica Smith 5-10 V. Cricket Williams 5-7 Another great match up. La Tech has produced some pretty good point guards, including all-world Teresa Weatherspoon. Smith is no Weatherspoon, but she ain't bad, either. Deadly behind the arch and a clever playmaker: a very confident leader. Cricket is the catalyst and the heart and soul of the team.
A true leader and great all-around talent. She wants to take the shot. Tough and gritty, she also has the skills to match. Not the shooter that Smith is but is quicker and more aggressive. A winner takes all match up.
Amber Obaze G 5-9 V. Erica McGlaston G 5-7 Obaze provides team leadership and clutch shooting for the Lady Techsters. If the game is close, the ball will be in her hands. Not the player to foul. Obaze and Smith are interchangeable, similar skills and abilities.
Probably the top backcourt in the WAC. The Junior McGlaston is the future point person for the team. A solid and fundamentally sound player. Won't try to do too much and plays in control. A great running mate for Williams.
Tasha Crain 5-7 V. Chenne Tuimoloau 5-9 The Spartans might go with Nica Gemo as the fifth Spartan; however, I'm thinking that coach Richards will counter La Tech's three-guard look with Tuimoloau.
And not a bad choice, either. Another great recruit by Richards; the junior Tuimoloau has been coming off of the bench for most of the season and providing instant offense for the team. One of the team's top three point shooters, she will be counted on to provide some scoring and team speed against the Lady Techster.
Crain is another cookie-cutter La Tech player: quick, athletic and skilled. A top recruit last year, Crain will be a pain in our sides for years to come.
Bench: Here's where the game will be won: La Tech just keeps throwing team speed and quickness at you. The Spartans will have to keep up if they expect to win. Lakiste Barkus averages double-digits coming off the bench. The junior could probably start and be the star for any team in the WAC. A tremendous player, lightning quick and a deadly shooter.
Aarica Ray is a bigger guard that will come of the bench. She'll see minutes down on the blocks, as well, but is a natural guard. Tiffany Thompson (6-1) and Tamika Kursh (6-1) are two of the team's tallest players, but could also see time at guard. The freshman Kursh has seen a lot of minutes and is heir apparent to Carter.
Tatiana's twin Teoma Taylor (6-0) has plenty of experience and skill for the team. More of a low-post player than her sister, Teoma will work hard and fight for each position. She is also the team's fourth-leading scorer.
The Spartans could use Jessica Kellogg (5-7) for this game. The senior has been out since the Santa Clara game with a leg injury. The part-time starter provides leadership and scoring for the team. One of the best outside shooters on the team.
If Nica Gemo does not start she will see a lot of minutes. The junior from Mozambique is a key player in the team's future and could be all-WAC next season. A solid player, who provides stifling defense and inside scoring. Senior Kayla Forster (6-3) has been a solid contributor all season long, but I don't expect to see her too much because of La Tech's team speed.
I also don't expect Freshmen Lindsay Harris, Tiffany McKneely, or Brittany Morris to get much playing time against the Techsters, but they also have key contributors this season and they are the future of the program.