Women’s basketball poised for run in conference tournament

Junior+guard+T%C3%A9a+Adams+looks+for+an+open+teammate+during+the+Aztecs%27+51-49+loss+to+Air+Force+on+Feb.+8+at+Viejas+Arena.

Aaron Tolentino

Junior guard Téa Adams looks for an open teammate during the Aztecs' 51-49 loss to Air Force on Feb. 8 at Viejas Arena.

by Cristian Alvarez, Senior Staff Writer

It’s officially March, so you know what that means for college basketball.

Let the madness begin.

But before the national tournament starts, there’s another bracket left to be played in the Mountain West Conference.

San Diego State women’s basketball begins its quest for a conference banner and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament Sunday against Utah State at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

The Aztecs (14-16, 9-9 MWC) are the No. 6 seed — their highest placement in the conference tournament since the 2014 season.

Their first round game is against the No. 11 seed in Utah State.

Both of the regular season meetings went in favor of the Aztecs, with the most recent on Feb. 1 when SDSU earned one of its five road wins this season.

The Aggies were the lowest-ranked offense in the conference during the regular season, averaging 55.7 points per game. 

Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said the Aztecs will not take Utah State lightly.

“Utah State is a great team and they’ve played some people close this year, so their record doesn’t indicate how hard they play,” Terry-Hutson said. “We’re not going to take any team for granted and be ready to play every time we jump the ball.”

It’ll be the third time the Aztecs and Aggies play each other this season, but it’s the first time both programs meet in the conference tournament.

“We’re on a neutral court this time,” senior guard Taylor Kalmer said. “No one has a home court advantage, so everyone is going to come hungry and we have to anticipate that and be ready to handle that type of mentality from every team we play.”

This year’s tournament is wide open and up for grabs.

Even though teams like Fresno State (23-6, 16-2 MWC) and Boise State (21-9, 13-5 MWC) have higher seeds, the Aztecs like their chances heading in.

“We have confidence going into the tournament because we were able to make a run at it last year,” Terry-Hutson said. “We’ve been in so many close games this year too. Some of them were victorious and some of them weren’t.”

In 30 games played this season, 17 of them have been decided by single digits. Half of the Aztecs’ total losses were separated by five points or less.

“We have been in a lot of situations that I think prepared us to grow in those moments,” Terry-Hutson said.

After such a lengthy season, you have to wonder about the fitness every team possesses heading into Sin City.

The Aztecs had both of their starting guards play the most minutes in the entire conference.

Kalmer led the MW with 1,133 minutes on the floor while sophomore guard Sophia Ramos is right behind her with 1,096 minutes. 

Terry-Hutson said utilizing their bench to balance everyone’s minutes will be key to have the best chance at winning it all. 

Playing four games in four days is a tall task for any team.

“We have some kids that can come off the bench and that can contribute in a lot of different ways,” she said. “We got to find some time to sit (Kalmer and Ramos) on the bench. We’re going to be creative with that and lengthen those TV timeouts as best we can and use all of mine to rest them.”

As a No. 7 seed in last year’s tournament, the Aztecs turned some heads by reaching the semi-finals, but eventually went on to lose in overtime to Wyoming.

History shows the No. 7 seed is a relatively lucky number.

The past three No. 7 seeds in the tournament have all reached the semi-finals in SDSU (2019), Nevada (2018) and Fresno State (2017).

Although they placed one seed higher for this year’s competition, SDSU is hoping to start a new trend and make the No. 6 seed a winning number.

“I feel like we are determined and ready to win because we were so close last year,” senior forward Monique Terry said. “We’re poised and matured at the right moment while peaking at the right moment.”

The Aztecs have some momentum heading into Vegas.

They’ve won six out of their last nine games, including back-to-back victories to end the regular season against Colorado State and Nevada.

“I think we just take that mindset of we were so close in a lot of these games and those games easily could’ve went the other way,” Kalmer said. “Knowing that mentality that we can beat any team we want to on any given night.”

Tip-off is set at 7:00 p.m. inside the Thomas and Mack Center.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email