SPARTANS NOW HOPE TO RECEIVE WNIT BID
By Mark Gomez-Mercury News
RENO - The San Jose State women's basketball team was right there, trailing second-seeded Rice by one point at halftime in a Western Athletic Conference tournament semifinal, two wins away from a trip to the Big Dance.
But the Spartans self-destructed in the second half, missing six layups and a handful of open shots during a 76-68 loss Friday at the Lawlor Events Center. Still, there is reason for optimism. Although SJSU's chances of an NCAA tournament bid are finished, the Spartans (18-12) could make their first postseason tournament appearance since 1981 with a trip to the WNIT.
``I told them not to hang up their tennis shoes yet. We're hoping to get a phone call,'' Coach Janice Richard said. ``We'll wait and see what happens.''
If Louisiana Tech and Rice, the regular-season co-champions who are playing in today's final, reach the NCAA tournament, the 32-team WNIT could pick two more WAC teams for its field.
By finishing in a fourth-place tie with Fresno State and Southern Methodist during the regular season and beating third-place Tulsa three times, including once in the WAC tournament, the Spartans have shown they should be considered one of the WAC's top four teams.
``If we get two teams I'd be really disappointed if we're not one,'' Richard said.
Still, the Spartans may have let one slip away. After swaying momentum in its favor on Jessica Kellogg's buzzer-beating three-pointer, the Spartans made just two field goals in the first 12 minutes of the second half. During that stretch, SJSU missed four layups, each of which would have cut Rice's lead to three or four points.
``We've been a second-half team,'' Richard said. ``I felt really good being down one point. I felt like we come out and execute a lot better in the second half. We got open looks and weren't able to knock down shots.''
Rice (23-8) stymied SJSU forwards Amber Jackson and Lamisha Augustine, limiting the all-conference players to a combined 14 points. Rice sophomore center Lauren Neaves, a first-team, All-WAC selection, led the Owls with 18 points and made life difficult for SJSU's post players. Rice outrebounded SJSU 52-35.
``It was just one of those things,'' said Augustine, who scored six points and had 11 rebounds. ``Everything was short.''
The offense finally came to life with about eight minutes remaining, sparked by Lindsay Harris, who scored 17 points, and Kellogg, who scored 19.
But by that point, SJSU trailed by 14 points, was in foul trouble and was struggling to slow Rice, which extended its winning streak to 11 games. (SJSU gave Rice its last loss.)
``It was too little, too late,'' said Kellogg, who buried three three-pointers in the final five minutes. ``I don't know what happened.''
Harris kept SJSU's slim chances alive by making 15 of 16 free-throw attempts in the second half, tying a school record for most made in a game. Harris got to the line by driving to the basket and getting fouled.
``We felt like we could take the ball to the basket on them,'' Richard said. ``Lindsay getting to the line kept us in the game. She did an outstanding job.''
Spartans' Cinderella season comes to an end
SJSU suffers 76-68 loss to Rice in the WAC tourney
By Lauren Bosch-Daily Staff Writer
March 11, 2005
RENO, Nev. - The noticeable absence of guard Lamisha Augustine and early foul woes for several players, brought an end to the San Jose State University women's basketball team's season.
The 76-68 loss to the University of Rice, in the semifinal round of the Western Athletic Conference, ended all hopes for a trip to the NCAA Championship Tournament for the Spartans.
"It was a tough one today. We came out, I thought we played as hard as we could play," said SJSU head coach Janice Richard. "I have a really outstanding group. This group wouldn't quit, they wouldn't die. They fought back and they kept fighting. The clock was against us. If there was more time on the clock they would have kept fighting."
A close first half, SJSU was only down by one and appeared to be a team that just might overpower the No. 2 seeded Rice.
However, shots didn't fall the Spartans' way during the second half, as Augustine was 1-of-10 from the field and was held to just six points and Amber Jackson to only eight.
"It was just one of those nights," Augustine said. "They fell short and like coach said if we could we'd do it all over again. It's just sad that it is over now."
Key to the loss was the inability of the Spartans to make the easy baskets, a problem almost the entire team had throughout the game. The struggle found nearly every starter, as Rice was able to shut down the core of the Spartan offense.
"We lost by eight points and I can count without looking and know we missed at least five shots that we blew and it was an unfortunate thing," Richard said. "I know if those ladies could do it again they would probably knock those shots down, it's just one of those things that happened tonight."
The lack of shots from Augustine and Jackson forced Jessica Kellogg and Lindsay Harris, coming off the bench, to step-up and carry the team.
Throughout the second half, Kellogg managed to hit five of her 10 attempts from the three-point line.
"Jessica was able to get off a lot more (shots) than I thought she would have," Richard said. "She went 50 percent from the three-point range and she shot the ball very well."
Harris' contributions were also noticeable as she attempted to drive the basket as many times as possible. Harris was able to draw the foul several times, and went 15-of-16 from the line, tying a school record for most free-throws made in a single game.
"Lindsay did a great job at the free-throw line," Richard said. "She attacked that basket, but we just needed more weapons."
Despite the Spartans ability to remain close during most of the contest, an 8-0 run at the 10 minute mark of the second half sent the Spartans into a downward spiral. Only able to make up some baskets, the Spartans were never able to regain any control from the 15 point deficit and were forced to match the Owls, shot-for-shot, a challenge they were unable to meet.
"It was a little bit too late. I don't know what happened (during) the first half," Kellogg said. "There was a little bit of frustration but it started to die down when there was about three minutes left in the game."
Rice center Lauren Neaves posted her tenth double-double of the season, leading her team with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
In the teams' last meeting at SJSU, Neaves scored a career-high 22 points, in the Owls a 77-64 victory.
Also carrying the Owls was Krystal Frazier who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The loss marks, what will most likely be the end to the Spartans' season. The Spartans finished the best season any SJSU women's basketball team has seen in 25 years, with a record of 18-12. Picked to finish ninth in the WAC during preseason polls, the Spartans worked to prove they were better than expected.
"What an outstanding season we've had," Richard said. "(A record of) 18-12, with a group of young ladies that were picked to finish 9th in the conference, I think its' been our goal all year to prove those people wrong.
I think that they've done that, they've believed in each other, they believed in my staff and they made a commitment and I'm very proud to say I coached this team."