By Daniel Reedy:
A 16-point deficit wasn’t enough to beat a Spartan team that was hungry for a home win.
San Jose State shook off a three-game home losing streak to defeat Fresno State 77-68 in overtime.
The Spartans struggled in the first half and headed to the locker room down 33-22. They were slow out of the gate, but slashed into the Bulldogs’ double-digit lead with three-pointers from three different players. SJSU outscored their rivals 38-21 from the fourth quarter on, nearly matching its point total (39) of the first three quarters.
“You always want to beat Fresno State,” said coach Jamie Craighead. “[It was] a tremendous second-half effort on our part, as well as an overtime period that we dominated play on both ends of the court.”
The early deficit was largely due to a substantial difference in three-point shooting. The Bulldogs hit 4-9 from range in the first half. The Spartans, meanwhile, were just 1-9.
But SJSU woke up in the second half and those aforementioned three-pointers were the catalyst for the comeback.
Paris Baird drained three from downtown on her way to 13 points. Her clutch threes propelled the offense but she was a difference-maker on both ends of the floor, packing down a block in the fourth quarter and swiping a game-high four steals.
“When everyone gets to their spot, it just makes it that much easier to be in the right position,” Baird said. “It’s really my teammates that help me out so I can get in those positions.”
It is always nice to have a player that is so good that a 27-point performance is somewhat of a disappointment.
“[Dezz Ramos] didn’t have a bad game, we just expect so much of her,” Craighead said. “Whenever she has assists, that means that other people are knocking down shots.”
Ramos finished with seven turnovers, three of which came in the opening quarter when the Spartans put up just nine points.
When asked what she needed to do heading into the second half, Ramos said simply “Take care of the ball.”
After scoring just four points in the first half, Ramos erupted after halftime, scoring 23 points to lead the Spartans. She finished with eight assists.
Baird and Ramos weren’t the only Spartans in double figures.
Double-double machine Jasmine Smith was a beast inside, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 boards. Her tough play inside was huge for the Spartans, but was punished with blows to the head and face. Smith collided in the second half with the Bulldogs’ post players, forcing her to get checked for a head injury. In the closing minutes, Smith was jabbed by an elbow to the face from Fresno State’s Tory Jacobs. As Smith left the floor to get the blood wiped from her mouth and nose, Jacobs was ejected from the game.
Myzhanique Ladd rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points, shooting a perfect 4-4 from the line. Additionally, Ladd grabbed four rebounds between the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We weren’t stagnant in the zone, we were able to find our shooters,” Ramos said. “A lot of people were able to knock down threes.”
Fresno State was led by center Bego Faz Davalos who posted a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds. However, she had 13 of her points in the first half and scored just two points after the third quarter.
The offense was certainly not at its best tonight, but SJSU played what Craighead called “the best defensive effort [the Spartans] have had all season long.”
SJSU’s denial of shooting opportunities, second half shutdown of Faz Davalos and restraint from giving the Bulldogs free throws were key to the victory. Fresno State took just 10 shots from the line and was kept from it for the entirety of the fourth quarter and overtime.
The visiting Bulldogs also had four players score double digits but each of the them were forced to play at least 36 minutes.
Fresno State played only seven players in comparison to the Spartans’ eleven that saw action.
Despite the height disadvantage, the SJSU out-rebounded the Bulldogs 37-34, winning the battle on the glass with quickness and — per Craighead — “effort.”
SJSU hits the road for a pair of away games, beginning with Air Force on Saturday, Feb 18. at 4:00 p.m.