Three observations: Aztecs fall to UNLV despite strong second half, Ramos’ return

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Kyle Betz

San Diego State women’s basketball sophomore forward Mallory Adams attempts a shot with her right hand during the Aztecs’ 80-65 loss to UNLV on Feb. 15, 2021 at Viejas Arena.

by Andrew Finley, Staff Writer

San Diego State women’s basketball couldn’t keep up with UNLV on Monday, Feb. 15, losing 80-65. The loss is now the Aztecs’ (5-13, 3-9 Mountain West Conference) sixth consecutive loss. 

The Rebels (12-8, 10-5 MWC) were the Scarlet and Black’s first game in 10 days due to the cancellation of the Aztecs’ series against San José State. Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said she was glad to be back on the court but the days off took a toll on the team’s performance. 

“It felt great (to be playing games again), but it also showed that we haven’t played in a week,” Terry-Hutson said. “We missed some shots that I know my team can make. So we were shaking the rust off offensively.”

The return to action proved to showcase a lot of potential for the Aztecs moving forward despite losing by 15 points. Here are three observations on the Aztecs’ loss to UNLV. 

1. Four-quarter game

Both teams struggled in the first quarter to produce any sort of offense, combining to make just 26.4% of field goals. The second quarter is where UNLV broke away, however, scoring 29 points to just 14 put up by the Aztecs.

The Rebels went into the locker room with a 43-23 lead and the Scarlet and Black responded with aggression and speed in the second half, outscoring UNLV 42-38, including a 24-15 fourth quarter of play. That intensity out of the locker room is what Terry-Hutson said she was looking for going into the second half. 

“I thought we played a little tentative on offense, and I thought we were behind on defense so I challenged them just to be better,” Terry-Hutson said. “We’re down 20 at half — it would have been a much better game if we would have started with that same intensity.”

 The Aztecs lost the game by 15 points and were outscored in three of the four quarters. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, the second quarter proved to be the difference in the game. 

2. UNLV shoots a lot of 3s

The first points of the game came off a jumper from San Diego State’s junior guard Mercedes Staples, which would quickly be followed up by a 3-pointer by junior guard Nia Johnson of UNLV. This would be exactly how the second quarter started as well — a Staples jumper followed by a Johnson 3-pointer. 

Johnson would end up being the leading scorer on the day with 22 points while being 4-9 on 3-pointers. As a team, UNLV would end up sinking nine from the 3-point line, landing seven of those in the first half, and making four of their five 3-point attempts in the second quarter. Freshman guard/forward Kim Villalobos said the Aztecs saw this type of performance coming from UNLV, but failed to execute against it. 

“We emphasized in our (scouting report) they’re a good 3-point shooting team,” Villalobos said. “We came out, and then in the first half, we had our hands down. So I think tomorrow, just now we know for a fact they can shoot threes, they can make threes.”

Despite the high number of shots from the 3-point line, coach Terry-Hutson said she thought the Rebels would shoot more. 

“Twenty-two (attempts) is a little bit low from what they shoot as far as attempts, Terry-Hutson said. “We know that they shoot them and I don’t know that we were prepared.”

3. Sophia Ramos and Mallory Adams on same court once again

The Aztecs felt a sense of normalcy as sophomore guard Mallory Adams and junior guard Sophia Ramos were on the floor at Viejas Arena for the first time in 446 days. This was Adams’ first start in the 2020-21 season after nursing an ACL tear that ended her 2019-20 season, as well as Ramos’ first game after suffering a hand injury on Dec. 10. 

Their combined 20 points and eight rebounds  weren’t anything miraculous but the impact the two have on the court goes beyond the statistics. Ramos said having Mallory back is a huge boost for her game as well as the teams’. 

“This was one of those when we found out that I was going to be able to play this week, that was one of the highlights for us was just getting back together,” Ramos said. “That’s my best friend, that’s my sister — that’s who I came in with and it felt better than words could put together to be back out there with her.”

Villalobos said having Adams and Ramos back on the court together gives her confidence in her game as well. 

“It feels good to be on the court and see Sophia and Mal by my side, said Villalobos. “I was missing them when I was out there and then so many people (got) injured so it feels really great to have almost everyone (playing).”

Up next…

The Aztecs get a rematch against UNLV on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Viejas Arena. With veteran leaders returning and showing off a strong second half against UNLV on Monday, the Scarlet and Black are poised to compete with the Rebels for all four quarters. Terry-Hutson said that the best is yet to come from her team. 

“We haven’t played our best 40 minutes, but it’s gonna be a team effort,” Terry Hutson said. “And again, I cannot emphasize the defensive piece — you’re not going to win games giving up 80 points. So, although some of my offensive freshmen are very, very good, if they don’t start playing better defense they’re just not going to be able to play.”

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