The San Diego State women’s basketball team was able to add its second checkmark to its lists of team goals on Tuesday night.
SDSU already reached its 20th win of the season last week, putting it in position for the next goal: clinching at least a share of the Mountain West title.
They did just that, as the Aztecs (21-5, MW 11-1) defeated the Wyoming Cowgirls 68-55 in Laramie, Wyo.
The 13-point victory didn’t come easily, as SDSU had to endure a delayed charter flight, a diverted landing in Cheyenne and snow plow along with a police escort to reach Laramie — a city in which the Aztecs haven’t won since 1997.
These conditions didn’t take too much of a toll on the Aztecs apparently, as junior guard Courtney Clements led the team with 25 points and five rebounds, while junior center Malia Nahinu added 12 points of her own.
Junior guard Chelsea Hopkins also played a solid game scoring nine points, dishing six assists and snatching five steals, which tied her career high.
SDSU took longer than usual to settle in against the Cowgirls, but it made for an exciting game. The first half had plenty of back-and-forth action as the lead changed 14 times.
Like every win, the most important lead change was the last one. It came when freshman forward Chairese Culberson, who led the Aztecs with seven rebounds, received a clean pass from freshman guard Ahjalee Harvey to make a layup while drawing a foul.
The layup would tie the score and the free throw would give SDSU a 30-29 advantage heading into halftime.
Still, a one-point margin certainly leaves no room for error.
“I even told them before the game, ‘Just don’t panic, it will be a close game’” SDSU head coach Beth Burns said. “’We’re not going to put the hammer down until the second half.’”
The Aztecs took that to heart and controlled the majority of the second half, aside from once when Wyoming showed signs of an upset.
The Cowgirls were able to close the SDSU lead to 43-42 with 10:14 left in the matchup, but Clements knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to keep the Aztecs on top.
With 3:17 remaining, SDSU pulled away from the Cowgirls and finished the clinching win with a dominant 11-0 run.
SDSU now looks to take sole possession of the MW title when it plays Colorado State at 1 p.m. this Saturday in Fort Collins.
“There’s nothing guaranteed in our league with everybody’s RPI,” Burns said, referring to NCAA tournament chances. “So the most important thing for us to do is to just keep on winning.”