The San Diego State women’s basketball team (12-4) received its second Mountain West Conference win (2-0) with a 66-62 overtime defeat against UNLV (13-5, MWC 1-1) at Cox Pavilion Saturday.
Junior guard Courtney Clements, who ranks first in the conference with 16.3 points per game, led the team with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Returning to her hometown Las Vegas, junior guard Chelsea Hopkins played just 12 minutes in the first half after early foul trouble.
“They ran a lot of straight-screens to get her to cause fouls, so (head coach Beth Burns) asked us all to switch and take (Hopkins’) man when necessary,” senior center Kalena Tutt said. “We all stepped up.”
SDSU was able to contain the Lady Rebels without its captain, Hopkins, 29-28 heading into halftime.
Hopkins, who leads the Mountain West in assists per game (5.8) returned to her usual self entering the second half with back-to-back assists, giving the Aztecs a 33-28 lead.
Towards the end of the second half, with less than one minute remaining, a steal by Hopkins resulted with an easy layup, putting SDSU apparently in the clear 54-50.
Then Hopkins, Clements and freshman forward Chairese Culberson each drew intentional 1-and-1 fouls from UNLV, but missed them all.
The Lady Rebels took advantage of the crucial mistakes with a game-tying layup by guard Mia Bell with six seconds remaining, sending it into overtime tied at 54.
Burns kept her team focused after its mishaps during the closing seconds.
“I said ‘The sting is going to hurt a lot less if we just get together and win this game,’” Burns said. “‘Then we’ll shoot 1,000 free throws tomorrow at practice.”
The Aztecs responded, managing to establish a 64-60 point lead (their largest in overtime) with just 21 seconds remaining because of Tutt’s only three points of the game. After making a free throw, Tutt found space down low on the following SDSU possession and scored after a flashy assist by Hopkins.
“We matched up pretty well at every position,” Tutt said. “It just came down to who wanted it more and tonight it really showed. We had to win it for Chelsea.”
Hopkins put the game out of reach, making the Aztecs’ final two points with free throws, fittingly.
SDSU, with a 7-1 record will return back home at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Viejas Arena.