Spartans look to corral conference leaders

By Daniel Reedy:

The San Jose State women’s basketball team faces its toughest challenge of the Mountain West season so far tonight.

The Spartans (6-11, 3-2 in conference) have hit the road for a matchup with the Wyoming Cowgirls who sit atop the MW — the only team still undefeated in conference play.

The Cowgirls (13-3 overall) have not just won each of their five conference games, they have stomped all over their MW opponents. Wyoming has outscored each of the five teams by an average of 18.4 points, ranking first in point differential.

Led by guard Liv Roberts’ 24 points, the Cowgirls bullied visiting Fresno State, 70-48. Just three days later, the same Fresno State squad defeated the Spartans 88-74, holding MW Player of the Year candidate Dezz Ramos to just 12 points.

But since the loss, Ramos has led SJSU to back-to-back conference wins, averaging 32.5 points. Ramos leads the conference with 22.3 points per game (ninth in the nation) but is blowing away the rest of the MW in conference games, averaging 30.2. The next closest is Wyoming’s Roberts with 19.1.

The Spartans sit well above their rivals, scoring an average of 83 points per game. Much like the individual leaders’ scoreboard, the next closest is Wyoming with 71.6.

Second place in scoring is impressive enough, but the Cowgirls also carry the second best defense, giving up just 53.2 per game.

It is no secret that Ramos’ tear is the main cause for SJSU’s conference-leading offense, but the superstar guard will have to be at her best against a Wyoming team that has held all of its last two opponents’ guards to single-digit scoring.

If the Cowgirls lock down, or even slow down Ramos, the Spartans will look to double-double machine Jasmine Smith. The forward has posted a double-double in each of SJSU’s five conference games.

Wyoming hopes to avenge last year’s pair of defeats at the hands of SJSU.

Smith and Ramos led the Spartans to victory in last season’s nailbiter, 67-66. Smith scored 14 points and pulled down 7 rebounds while Ramos did nothing less than drop 26 points and drain the game-winning from beyond the arc with four seconds left.

Ramos, who also hit a last-second game-winner against San Diego State on Jan. 11, will likely need to take a few critical shots as she takes on a defense that holds opponents to 37.4 percent shooting.

Smith will battle in the paint with another six-foot forward, Natalie Baker, who also had two double-doubles last week.  

The Cowboys enter the game with the most assists per game in the MW (19.6) and the best turnover to assist ratio but the Spartans aren’t far behind — third in assists per game and second in turnover to assist ratio.

But SJSU is facing off against a team that hasn’t lost since Dec. 9 and victory will require what no team in the MW has been able to do against Wyoming.

The matchup tips off at 5:30 p.m. tonight.

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