By Eli Baldrige, Staff Writer
The San Diego State women’s basketball team is used to close games. Heading into Tuesday’s matchup against crosstown rival University of San Diego (4-2), SDSU’s last three games have been decided by two points each.
Tuesday’s game was no different. It took an overtime period before the Aztecs were able to seal the 72-63 victory.
“We wanted it bad so we had to take it,” senior forward Paris Johnson said. “And to get a win against our rival feels great.”
Johnson, who scored a team-high 22 points, got her first career win at Jenny Craig Pavilion. The win was SDSU’s first in since 2002 at the Toreros’ home arena.
The Aztecs showed their physical presence early with three straight offensive rebounds on their first possession. But sloppy turnovers allowed USD to get out on the fast break and score some easy buckets. The Toreros were leading 5-0 after one minute.
Neither team was able to build a large lead in the first half. SDSU went into the break losing 25-22.
After the half, USD slowly built a double-digit lead. The Toreros went on a 6-0 run after Nya Mason hit back-to-back shots in the middle of the second half and led 41-33 with 11:39 remaining. Following Mason, USD guard Dominique Conners made a flurry of shots to increase the Torero lead to 12 with eight minutes left.
Then, the Aztecs fought back.
Sophomore guard Courtney Clements, who finished with 18 points, and junior guard Sajoyia Griffin started connecting on a series of jump shots for SDSU. Clements’ and Griffin’s shooting coupled with Johnson’s scoring down low allowed the Aztecs to crawl back into the game.
A spectacular and-one layup by senior guard Coco Davis, who played 44 out of a possible 45 minutes, tied the game at 55 with less than two minutes to play. A pair of clutch free throws from Johnson down the stretch forced overtime.
“We struggled shooting free throws last weekend,” Johnson said. “So it was something we focused on in practice this week and it paid off.”
In the overtime period, SDSU’s front court proved to be too much for the Toreros. Senior forward Jessika Bradley scored the first bucket of extra time on a left-handed reverse. The Aztecs continued to dominate down low through the final five minutes to secure the 72-63 victory.
“Starting out we didn’t have a great tempo, but we stepped it up,” head coach Beth Burns said. “The victory really shows something about the entire team’s resiliency. This is very exciting for us.”