Column: Defense propelling Aztecs for strong finish to season

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Aaron Tolentino

Junior guard Téa Adams looks to defend a Fresno State player during the Aztecs' 65-60 loss on Jan. 15 at Viejas Arena.

by Breven Honda, Staff Writer

San Diego State women’s basketball is known for its shooting, but it is the defense that has kept the team in games.

In SDSU’s last five games, they are 3-2, and those two losses have come down to the final seconds.

On Feb. 8 against Air Force and Feb. 15 against Boise State, SDSU lost in the final seconds. However, on Jan. 29, the Aztecs won with less than 10 seconds left in the ballgame.    

Sophomore guard Sophia Ramos said despite losing two close games, the Aztecs’ defense is something they continue to work on every day.

“We’re doing great on the defensive side,” Ramos said. “We’re getting in our gaps when we need to be, we’re guarding the players like we’re supposed to be. Our defense has been something we’ve been trying to emphasize. We’re finding the groove again and holding teams to less points than they’re averaging, which is fantastic for us.”

A big part of defense is rebounding.

Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson sets the rebounding scheme where players like senior forwards Monique Terry and Baylee Vanderdoes and senior center Zayn Dornstauder box out the bigs and guards like Ramos and senior Taylor Kalmer can fly in and grab the rebounds.

Ramos has taken pride in her rebounding over her last five games, averaging 9.4 rebounds, including a career-high 14 boards against the Broncos on Feb. 15.

That is credit to the post players boxing out.

Ramos said she also focuses on her rebounding game with the injured sophomore forward Mallory Adams out for the season due to a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to step up in Mallory’s absence,” Ramos said. “The posts are doing a great job blocking out. Baylee and Monique are blocking out some tough rebounders, so I get to do the easy part, kind of fly in and find the ball.”

There are players in the Mountain West Conference who the Aztecs focus their defensive game plan around.

Last Saturday against Boise State, it was Broncos junior center Mallory McGwire, who stands at 6-foot-5.

McGwire played 22 minutes and scored 13 points.

Terry-Huston said she knew McGwire’s talent and had to critically defend the Oregon transfer. 

“Our goal was to always make it hard every time she touched (the ball),” Terry-Hutson said. “We wanted to discourage the ball from going in. For the most part, when you hold a player like that to 13 points, you give yourself a good chance to win.”

Ramos added that her teammates playing the center position did well covering McGwire.

“You are never going to be able to stop her, but you definitely can slow her down,” Ramos said. “All of our fives, for the most part, came in, did their job against her, which is all you can ask for from them.”

With the conference tournament less than two weeks away, the team’s goal is to get hot near the end of the season, which is now.

Terry-Hutson said the games before the Mountain West Conference tournament will help them when they could face a team for a third time, like the Broncos.

“Our team is confident that they can matchup and play against anybody, so I think that’s what you need going into the conference tournament,” Terry-Hutson said.

The Aztecs hold their opponents to 64.5 points per game, ranking as the fourth-best defense in the conference.

Breven is a junior studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @BrevenHonda.

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