By Daniel Reedy:
San Jose State looks to continue its road pattern as the postseason approaches.
SJSU enters Wednesday’s matchup on a two-game winning streak and has won its last three road contests.
Utah State sits half a game back from the Spartans but has won its last three home match ups.
With slight changes to conference standings over the last few games, these two teams could face off again in the Mountain West Tournament.
The Aggies are led by sophomore guard Rachel Brewster’s 13.2 points per game but the credit for recent success goes to Utah State’s defense which is now up to third in the conference, giving up 57.2 points per game.
Comparatively, the Spartans concede nearly 80 points per game.
Utah State is eighth place in the standings but the Aggies’ rebounding is second only to the Colorado State Rams who are atop the standings and lead the conference in numerous categories.
Freshman Shannon Dufficy is a force in the paint, pulling down 8.6 rebounds per game. At 6 foot 2, Dufficy offers a tall challenge for Spartan forward Paris Baird.
Baird will need to step up tonight as SJSU is playing without forward Jasmine Smith who is out with a head injury. Smith collided with a Fresno State player going for a rebound and wobbled away awkwardly. She left the game for a brief respite but in the final minutes, was elbowed by the Bulldogs’ Tory Jacobs. Jacobs was ejected from the game and later dealt a one-game suspension.
Losing a Smith’s often double-double production is obviously detrimental.
“We always throw the ball up to her,” said freshman guard Taylor Turney. “It’s different to not have that weapon on the court.”
The Spartans — without Smith — still stomped lowly Air Force 83-67 but was outrebounded by the Falcons 49-40. That level of play inside will doom the Spartans against the rebounding-specialist Aggies.
“We need to prepare the same way as we did against Air Force … just do it better,” said guard Myzhanique Ladd.
Of the 83 points against Air Force, Ladd scored 17 and pulled down 11 rebounds for a double double in Smith’s stead.
Another 34 points came from star guard Dezz Ramos. The Mountain West Player of the Year candidate hit 7-11 from range in the victory. Mostly due to Ramos, the Spartans shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Ramos returns home to Utah where she grew up and played her first two years of college ball (Weber State).
“I am really excited,” Ramos said. “I love playing in front of [my family].”
The Spartans will need Ramos to have another big game and put up enough points to offset Utah State’s inside presence.
SJSU may look to freshman Alex Harris to fill in for Smith. The 6 foot 3 center has played limited minutes this season, but has raw skill and her length could be a huge asset for the Spartans.
Each team will look to continue their streaks and we will see whether SJSU can shoot well enough to counter Utah State’s rebounding ability.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. in Logan, Utah.