The San Diego State women’s basketball team proved any doubters wrong last night.
With just one player returning from last season’s starting lineup, “inexperience” has constantly been labeled as the team’s sole thorn on its side all season.
Last night was the perfect opportunity to change that generalization, considering the Aztecs played in an arena they had never visited in school history.
The Aztecs (17-4, Mountain West 7-0) defeated Boise State 69-59 in Taco Bell Arena to extend their winning streak to 13 games.
Completing its first go around conference play, SDSU couldn’t have ended on a better note against the Broncos (11-11, MW 2-5), holding the league’s best offense (69.6 points per game) to such a low scoring total.
SDSU wasn’t intimidated, however, with offensive weapons of its own. Junior guard Courtney Clements led the Aztecs with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Junior center Malia Nahinu got the offense started, scoring eight of the Aztecs’ first 14 points.
SDSU continued to carry the load, pushing its lead to 21-14 with 8:33 remaining in the half.
Later in the half, the Aztecs went on a 7-0 run beginning with junior guard Chelsea Hopkins’ two free throws and layup, along with three free throws added by Clements. The momentum quickly shifted, however, as the Broncos went coast-to-coast in only six seconds for a halftime buzzer-beater.
The breakdown of SDSU’s defense ended the half with a close 31-26 lead, but head coach Beth Burns had some words of encouragement for the team in the locker room.
“I told them, ‘Look, we’re in first place, and we’ll still be in first no matter what happens tonight. But if we want to get in the (NCAA) tournament, we got to get by everybody (in the MW),’” Burns said.
The Aztecs responded with less mental lapses, holding the lead the entire second half, sometimes with as many as 14 points.
Boise State attempted to show signs of life, but couldn’t hang on. After a 3-pointer by the Broncos to make the score 51-42 with 10:33 left, Clements made a three, earned a steal and scored a mid-range jumper all in the span of 15 seconds.
“They’d have to guard us for 30 seconds; we’d take a shot, get a rebound and they’d have to guard us for 30 more. It limited their offensive abilities,” Hopkins said.
“That was the key: We knew they were a transition team but they didn’t get many chances to run on us.”
Hopkins finished with 13 points and led the team with seven assists.
The Aztecs will begin the second half of conference play as they take on TCU at noon this Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.
The only question now is, can SDSU repeat its first-half success and run the table?
“We’re not going to take anybody lightly; we know that we’re the hunted,” Hopkins said. “The second time will be more challenging, but I know that we’re ready.”