By Lindsey Boyd (@lindsboyd3 ):
A major statement was made for San Jose State’s women’s basketball (5-10, 2-2 MW) as they took down the No. 1 team in the Mountain West Conference, New Mexico 95-86 on Saturday.
Senior guard Myzhanique Ladd drove the Spartans down the path of victory with a thundering career high of 27 points.
“It’s big,” head coach Jamie Craighead said of beating the Lobos. “I don’t know that anybody gave us a chance to win that basketball game except for ourselves.”
The Lobos, who were edging to be a top 25 team, came out on a 12-2 run. But the tide turned after the Spartans got shooting momentum of their own midway through the first to end the quarter 23-18.
Three minutes into the second, sophomore Analyss Benally hit a three to tie the game, 33-33.
Benally tied a career-high with 15 points of her own, and played a major role in hitting points when they were most needed — especially in the fourth quarter when she sank back-to-back threes to help the Spartans run away with the victory.
“I felt like I couldn’t miss today,” Benally said after the win.
The Spartans were down 49-42 going into halftime, but the Lobos couldn’t keep up with SJSU’s fast tempo and running as evident of the three lead changes they allowed.
“We really took away their shooters in the second half,” Craighead said. “I think fatigue kind of played a factor in that with our press.”
SJSU kept the game within a few points, but ultimately sophomore guard Taylor Turney’s layup pushed the Spartans ahead, 68-67. From there, they held onto the lead and played a one point, back-and-forth game. The possession changed four times in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter until SJSU went on a 8-0 run.
Benally hit two three’s in a row then Ladd went in for a layup to give the team a cushion to finish the last five minutes ahead.
“For us, we hadn’t gone on a run for a while,” Craighead said. “It gave some separation and I think it gave our kids a chance to go ‘oh my gosh, like if we just play solid, we can win this game.’”
The Lobos’ heavy pressure on the perimeter allowed Ladd to take advantage of the open lanes down low and sink her drives and jumpers. Her 8-12 field goal performance coupled with 8 made free throws and 3-4 shooting behind the arc, gave the Spartans 27 points.
“It feels good, but it doesn’t feel as good as beating a great team like New Mexico with my teammates,” Ladd said humbly of her performance.
Craighead teased that Ladd, “Could have had like 35 if she hadn’t missed a few in the first half… I’ll make sure she knows about that.”
The Spartans were up four points when Ladd was injured after a kick to her neck. She crumbled on the floor and was taken out for the rest of the game. Luckily, her teammates kept the lead alive.
“Physically, well I mean I got kicked in the neck so it was kind of a weird feeling, but I’m good now — just need some ice,” Ladd said.
Craighead was proud of the win but warns that her team better get off the “rollercoaster” and stay focused for Wednesday when SJSU takes on San Diego State at 7 p.m. in the Event Center.