Phoenix, Ariz. – San José State (presented by Provident Credit Union) stepped into conference play on Monday night and promptly stepped right back out with a come-from-behind, 78-73 victory over Utah State.
Erasing a six-point halftime deficit, the Spartans (2-0, 1-0 MW) erupted for 48 second half points en route to the five-point win. The program has now won six of its last seven conference openers.
"We hadn't played in a long time so there was some rust out there," said head coach Jamie Craighead after the victory. "I thought the last 20 minutes seemed a lot more like us. We were able to get the ball inside down there and did a much better job of defending on the other end."
It was a pair of senior bigs who led Craighead's team in this one.
Forward Tyra Whitehead tallied her second double-double in as many games, scoring 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds (in addition to five assists). Rhode Island transfer Meghan Oberg also came up huge, scoring a career-high 18 points in the win.
It was also a significant night for the team's two freshmen - point guard Sophia Jones and forward Alani Fluker - as they each made their collegiate debut in the conference opener.
Trailing by six at the break, a 13-3 run out of the locker rooms gave San José State a 43-39 advantage early in the third quarter. Whitehead got the binge started with a pure jumper off a second-chance opportunity, and it was Oberg who stretched the lead out to four points with a deep three-pointer.
The Aggies (2-4, 0-1 MW) would battle back, eventually pulling ahead at 65-64 with just 6:45 to play. That lead - their final of the contest - lasted all of 15 seconds as a Danae Marquez three-ball gave the Spartans the lead back for good.
From there, the SJSU defense tightened up and got the stops necessary to keep Utah State at bay. The final was 78-73, giving the program its fourth consecutive win over the Aggies.
"It was hard to come back after such a long layoff but we were always confident in ourselves," Oberg said. "It felt great to get back out there and the team having confidence in my play really helped."
In addition to Whitehead and Oberg, Marquez and guard Raziya Potter also finished the night scoring in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Oberg and Potter were the team's second-leading rebounders with seven a piece.
Guard Autam Mendez shined off the bench, notching six points and three rebounds in nine minutes of action.
After the completion of Monday's games, SJSU is one of 30 unbeatens among teams that have started the 2020-21 season.
The first-place Spartans will look to stay hot when it meets Utah State again on Wednesday afternoon. Tip-off for that one is set for 1:00 p.m. (MT) at GCU Arena.
SPARTAN ATHLETICS FUND FAN CUTOUTS
Spartan Nation, don't miss your chance to be represented in the stands at the Provident Credit Union Event Center this season. If interested in a cardboard cutout, follow this link to register!