Without a hint of panic, Augustine beat her defender off the dribble and drained a pull-up jumper with 2.2 seconds left, lifting the Spartans to a 63-62 overtime victory over Southern Methodist at the Event Center.
``I just shot it,'' Augustine said. ``I didn't have any pressure on myself. I just shot it, just like all my other shots.''
But her mid-range jumper was anything but ordinary. By hitting the winner for a second consecutive game, Augustine extended the Spartans' winning streak to six games and helped them maintain sole possession of second place in the Western Athletic Conference. With a victory over first-place Louisiana Tech on Saturday, the Spartans (15-6, 8-3) could really assert themselves as postseason contenders.
``To have a big push in the second half of the conference could be a big boost for our program,'' SJSU Coach Janice Richard said.
Against the Mustangs, who beat the Spartans by 21 points Jan. 15, the Spartans provided plenty of drama by overcoming a 13-point first-half deficit, then letting a 12-point lead slip away in the final five minutes.
Overtime topped it all. After SJSU trailed by one for most of the period, point guard Erica McGlaston stole the ball with 10 seconds remaining to set up Augustine.
``I don't want the ball in anyone else's hands at that point,'' Richard said of Augustine. ``She has proven she is that person when the game is on the line.''
``We should have kept the ball out of her hands,'' Rompola said. ``She's their best one-on-one player.''
Leading 54-42 with just over five minutes remaining, the Spartans seemed to have the game in hand. But the offense disappeared, and the Mustangs crept back. It got so bad for SJSU that freshman Amber Jackson, who leads the nation in field-goal percentage, missed a shot from point-blank range. (Jackson did, however, deliver another typical performance with 17 points and 14 rebounds.)
Early on, the Spartans didn't look like a team playing in one of its biggest games of the season. Lethargic and out of sync, they fell behind 15-2 in the first five minutes.
SJSU needed a jolt, and got it off the bench in Lindsay Harris. The sophomore guard scored 12 of her 18 points in the first half to pull the Spartans to within 27-26 by halftime.
``I try to come in and be a sparkplug, score a few baskets, play a little `D' and call it a day,'' Harris said.
Harris gave SJSU its first lead with a three-pointer five minutes into the second half. Harris was the only Spartans reserve to score.
``It was a huge lift for Lindsay to come in and give us 18 points,'' Richard said. ``I haven't had anyone come off the bench to score.''
In beating the Mustangs, a decent 61st in the power rankings, the Spartans improved their NCAA tournament credentials. Though it's too soon to judge the victory's impact, such wins can only impress the NCAA seeding committee when it hands out at-large bids on Selection Sunday.
Contact Mark Gomez at email@example.com or (408) 920-5869.