The SJSU women’s basketball team defeated the University of Texas Arlington Mavericks 71-49 at the SJSU Event Center Thursday night.
“A lot of things were accomplished tonight,” sophomore guard Ta’Rea Cunnigan said. “We were better in the second half than the first, and I’m just really proud of my team for fighting through to get the W.”
The Spartans snapped a four game losing streak, and freshman forward Riana Byrd set the SJSU single season record for blocks, with four on the night and 60 on the year.
The team played aggressive and physical from the beginning of the game, putting the Mavericks in foul trouble early in the first half.
With four minutes to go in the half, the Spartans offense started to hit its groove, and they went on a 12-2 run to finish the half leading 30-21.
Cunnigan led the team with 13 points at half, and freshman forwards Emily Schill and Riana Byrd both led the team with eight rebounds.
As the second half began, the Spartans took control.
The team went on an 11-2 run within the first seven minutes, and didn’t look back.
“The game plan for the second half was to finish more,” Cunnigan said. “We were getting shots right around the rim, and coach just emphasized consistency and finishing.”
The defense continued its aggression in the second half, forcing five turnovers and eight missed shots during its run.
Riana Byrd blocked back to back shots late in the game, giving her the SJSU single season record.
“I didn’t know if they counted the first block and I really wanted to get the block record this game,” said Byrd. “So I was like ‘I’ll just get this one’ and then she went up again, so I was like ‘okay, I’ll get this one too.’”
Byrd leads the Western Athletic Conference in blocks this season, averaging 2.24 blocks per game.
“It’s kind of automatic, I’ve always done it,” said Byrd about her ability to block shots.
Head coach Tim La Kose said the defense wanted to pressure the ball, rebound, and focus on capitalizing the turnovers and missed shots.
“I think the defensive end generated a lot of offense for us,” head coach Tim La Kose said. “Rebounding, we were solid we had a really big night. And that generated a lot of offense.”
The Spartans continued the rest of the half with a hot offensive hand with Cunnigan leading the charge by sinking three three-pointers in the half.
“I thought towards the end we really spaced the floor well and got the shot we wanted,” La Kose said. “So I was really pleased with the way we ended the game.”
Two Spartans finished with double-doubles; junior guard Chereese Thomas scored 10 points and had 10 assists, and Byrd finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
“Ta’Rea is one of the best on ball defenders, she gets her hands on a lot of passes,” La Kose said. “And a big key to our defense is the ball pressure, and she excels at that. Riana is one of the best rebounders in the conference. The rest of the players were doing their roles on defense, and it was a really good defensive second half.”
He said the team needs to take better care of the ball to put themselves in good position for Saturday’s game.
“We want to finish strong the last two home games,” said La Kose. “I like the way we finished tonight I want to carry that over into our final home game, and peak at the end of the season.”