WAC roundup: N.M. State holds off Hawaii
Appeal Sports Writer
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The potent duo of Sherrell Neal and Anikia Jawara struggled mightily from the field against Hawaii, shooting a collective 5-for-23 from the floor.
No problem, thanks to New Mexico State freshman Madison Spence.
Spence, the daughter of NMSU coach Darin Spence, scored a career-high 20 points and dished out four assists to lead the Aggies to a 55-40 win in a WAC quarterfinal game Wednesday at the Pan American Center.
The win sends the Aggies, 22-8, into the semifinals against Boise State, 23-6, at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Spence knocked down 8 of 15 shots from the floor, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc.
“We have a lot of experienced players and I know that they’re going to be double-teamed,” Madison Spence said. “I’m just trying to free them up and get them opened up.”
“Their bigs (Hawaii) are the biggest in the league,” Darin Spence said. “They are hard to score over and presents a tougher challenge for us. Anikia struggled scoring the ball, but rebounded well. Sherrell is a slasher and found ways to score. The biggest thing is our guards. They really found a way to make shots.”
And, the Aggies proved they could play some defense, too, holding Hawaii to 14 first-half points in building a nine-point lead. Hawaii shot 17 percent in the first half and 26 for the game.
“They shut us down offensively, especially in the first half,” Hawaii coach Jim Bolla said. “They did a real good job, but we were still in it at halftime. In the second half we got it to seven, but we couldn’t get a run going. They (the shots) just weren’t dropping for us.”
After Hawaii cut the lead to 38-31 with 9:03 left, Spence scored on a lay-up and then Hannah Spanich drained a 3-pointer to make it 43-31. Tanya Smith and Keisha Kanekoa scored to make it 43-35, but a basket by Jawara, a 3-pointer by Spence and a free throw by Neal upped the lead to 49-35 with 3:25 left.
Smith led Hawaii with 11 and Tara Hittle added 10.
Fresno State 87, San Jose State 76
The top-seeded Bulldogs got 23 points by Jaleesa Ross, 16 from Emma Andrews and 15 from WAC Player of the Year Tierre Wilson to subdue the pesky Spartans.
Fresno State improved to 20-10 and will play Louisiana Tech Friday at 11 a.m.
“We faced a San Jose team that was excited to play,” FSU coach Adrian Wiggins said. “They did a good job of running their offense. They did some things that gave us match-up problems. It allowed for a good basketball game.
“I’m proud of our team for sharing the ball. We knocked down open shots and we tried to do things right as the game went along.”
The Bulldogs had 16 assists on 31 baskets and won the battle of the boards 34-31.
Ross scored 14 of her 23 in the first half to give the ‘Dogs a 43-32 lead at the break.
San Jose cut the deficit to 45-42 with 17:01 left on Natalie White’s lay-up, capping a 10-0 run. Brittany Powell contributed two buckets, while White, Sayja Sumler and Alisha Hicks added one hoop each.
A 3-pointer and lay-up by Ross and two free throws by Emma Andrews pushed the lead back to 11, 53-42. The Spartans did get it back down to four with 14:34 left, but two minutes later Fresno State pushed the lead to double digits again.
White led the Spartans with 21 points.
Boise State 61, Utah State 47
Tasha Harris scored 19 and Jessica Thompson added 17 to lead the second-seeded Broncos to a victory.
Utah State was in the game until midway through the second half. The Broncos, led by seven straight points from Thompson, went on a 9-0 run to make it 48-37 with 7:26 to go.