Aztec women’s basketball loses gritty battle against Nevada, 70-64

by Brandon Truffa, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego State women’s basketball was on the hunt against the University of Nevada Wolf Pack, but even a gritty performance could not salvage SDSU’s hopes of breaking its six-game losing streak. The hunters became the hunted, falling 70-64 at Viejas Arena.

Sophomore point guard McKynzie Fort got the Aztecs, who are still searching for their first win of the calendar year, on the board first, but SDSU found itself in an early hole.

After a barrage of 3-pointers courtesy of Nevada junior guard Stephanie Schmid, the Aztecs trailed 14-7 with under three minutes to go in the first quarter.

But with time winding down in the quarter, Fort took matters into her own hands and pulled the Aztecs within two as the buzzer sounded.

The second quarter was a tug-of-war battle between Nevada and SDSU, as both teams showed a ton of tenacity.

SDSU junior guard Kymberly Ellison and junior forward Kylie Herd dove for every loose ball and were very physical in trying to snag rebounds.

The tenacity paid off, and the Aztecs regained the lead with seven minutes left in the half.

“That was our pregame talk,” head coach Stacie Terry said. “We talked about playing with more grit, and that was using the growth from our previous losses, and just being relentless and rebounding.”

Despite the grittiness the Aztecs were on the wrong side of seven first-half lead changes, trailing 29-26 heading into the locker room.

The Wolf Pack shooters came out hot, opening the second half with an 8-2 run, which pushed their lead to nine.

The Aztecs, however, continued to slowly fight back, and were once again able to pull within three after an amazing effort from Fort and Ellison.

At the three-minute mark, Fort scored with a layup on the fast break. Fort then stole the ensuing Nevada inbound and quickly handed it off to Ellison, who finished with a layup of her own.

Ellison ended the night with 13 points, three rebounds and one assist in 25 minutes of play.

“My teammates helped me out a lot,” Ellison said. “They encouraged me, especially when my shots were off. I’ve been up and down on games, and tonight I was able to connect with my teammates and my coaches.”

Fort made another key play in the waning seconds of the quarter.

With 10 seconds to go, Fort converted a key layup to tie the game at 48. Nevada then inbounded the ball and Fort forced the Wolf Pack player out of bounds to give the Aztecs the final shot.

A technical foul by Nevada senior forward Nyasha LeSure gave the Aztecs two free throws.

In a gutsy move, Nevada head coach Jane Albright opted to not sub LeSure back in for the remainder of the game after her technical.

Terry admired Albright’s decision.

“She does a great job with them, and that was a discipline situation,” Terry said. “I was really impressed with that, because (LeSure) is one of their biggest contributors.”

SDSU was able to convert both free throws, and with four seconds left, the Aztecs ran one final play and put the ball in the hands of junior guard Ariell Bostick.

Bostick drilled a deep 3 at the buzzer and the Aztecs led 53-48 heading into the fourth quarter.

SDSU’s shooting early in the fourth went cold, and with 6:30 remaining, Nevada was  finally able to catch the Aztecs after redshirt-freshman forward AJ Chepas hit a key 3-pointer.

The Aztecs once again fought back, giving themselves a chance to tie the game with 1:39 left in the game.

A few missed shots coupled with Nevada’s ability to convert free throws, though, ultimately sealed SDSU’s seventh consecutive loss.

For Nevada, the win marked the team’s first road victory since Jan. 3, 2015.

Overall, there were nine lead changes between the two teams in the contest.

“That’s how all of our games are going to be going forward,” Terry said. “It’s going to be back and forth like that. We need to understand that when we go on a run that the other team is going to make a run, and just withstand it.”

The Aztecs will look to end their losing streak this Saturday against UNLV.