SDSU women’s basketball hoping for turnaround season in 2015-16

by Brandon Truffa, Staff Writer

Heartbreaking would be the best term to describe the ending to last season for San Diego State women’s basketball.

The Aztecs closed out last season by losing to the University of New Mexico 57-56 in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.

It was a rough ending.

The Aztecs had the ball, down by one, and with 14 seconds remaining missed a go-ahead layup as time expired.

Since then, the Aztecs have been hungry and motivated to get back on the court.

“Losing that last game in the conference tournament, really by a layup that we missed, I think kind of ignited our student athletes, and they’re really hungry to start the season,” head coach Stacie Terry said. “I think that if we had that shot again, we would make it.”

Last season, SDSU finished seventh in the MW with an overall record of 12-19 and 8-10 in conference.

Despite the losing records, Terry believes there are many positive takeaways from last year’s campaign.

“I think just how we finished the season,” Terry said. “We were playing really good basketball in February and March, and I think that’s been motivating for them to see they can do it.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 7.31.25 PMAlong with the positive takeaways, there are some areas where Terry would love to see the team improve.

“We struggled on the offensive side of the ball and just being consistent,” Terry said. “And then obviously we need to improve our 3-point shooting.”

The Aztecs averaged 2.9 3-pointers per game compared to 5.4 from their opponents.

On the defensive side of the ball, Terry retooled the team’s philosophy.

“We’re going to play a little more man-to-man, and try to get after people,” Terry said.

Over the offseason, the team recruited some key pieces to help make these improvements.

“We recruited a young lady, a Division II junior college All-American, Kylie Herd,” Terry said. “She’ll come in and play some significant minutes at the forward spot for us.”

Herd, a junior, transferred from Mesa Community College in Arizona  and was named the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Division II Player of the Year last season.

In addition to Herd, the Aztecs will also be allowed to play two Division I transfers from last season.

Junior forward Kymberly Ellison from Georgia Tech University and sophomore guard Geena Gomez from St. Joseph’s University will finally see action after they were both required to sit out last season per NCAA rules.

SDSU will only carry one freshman on the roster, forward Arantxa Gomez Ferrer from Valencia, Spain.

Aside from the fresh faces, there are many key pieces from last year’s team, as well.

Most notably redshirt-senior guard Ahjalee Harvey and senior forward Deidra Smith.

“I definitely think in the past years that we’ve had the pieces, but this year I just feel a certain energy,” Harvey said. “I think we’ll be able to utilize and really come together to be able to not only win the Mountain West conference, but also move on to the NCAA tournament.”

Smith thinks the team’s dynamic has changed from last season.

“I think we’re going to be a very exciting team to watch,” Smith said. “We’re a lot quicker, we’re a lot smarter with basketball IQ and we’re in really good shape.”

The Aztecs haven’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2013. They’ve gone 25-36 in the two years since.

If they would like to get back to that point, they are going to have to win against some tough opponents this year.

Aside from the usual difficult conference games, the Aztecs will also face some tough nonconference teams.

Their first regular season game is at Long Beach State, a team that went 22-10 in 2014-15 and lost in the first round of the Women’s NIT Tournament to University of San Diego.

In December, SDSU plays at Cal State Northridge, which went 23-11 and lost to Stanford University in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

A trip up to Seattle to play the University of Washington looms later in November.

UW went 23-10 last season and lost to the University of Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The very next week during Thanksgiving break, SDSU plays North Dakota State and the University of Wisconsin during the SDSU Thanksgiving Classic.

The tournament is immediately followed by the crosstown showdown with USD.

The Toreros went 25-7 last season and lost in the second round of the NIT by five to UCLA.

With an optimistic outlook, the Aztecs are eager to return to the court and avenge last year’s heartbreaking ending.

“We have players that have recommitted themselves to getting better. Their individual skill has gone up, they’re much better ball players,” Terry said. “And because of that I think we’ll be a better team.”