Aggie women fall in first game on home floor
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 23:12
Senior Jenna Johnson’s career night wasn’t enough to propel the Utah State women’s basketball team to a win against Montana State on Saturday afternoon as the Aggies fell 71-65 in their first home game of the season.
“Very frustrating loss, very, very frustrating,” said USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “Nothing really was consistent all night long other than getting a lot of steals. We got 17 steals, but the stat sheet says zero fastbreak points. How do you get 17 steals and not get any fastbreaks? Bottom line is in our halfcourt offense. We are really struggling in the halfcourt of our offense.”
USU lost their previous two games and owns a 2-5 record. The Bobcats improve to 5-1, continuing their impressive start to the season.
“We’re growing right now and it’s a challenge we are trying to get through,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to figure out who we are and what we’re capable of. It just didn’t come out the way we wanted it to tonight.”
Johnson led the Aggies and was two steals away from her first ever triple-double. Her career-high 20 points, 10 rebounds and career-high eight steals led the game.
Senior Devyn Christensen struggled throughout the game to find her shot but finished with 18 points, despite shooting 6-22 from the floor.
“I worked my butt off but nothing is good enough unless we win,” Johnson said.
Montana State’s leading scorer was Kalli Durham with 18 points and four rebounds.
USU was outrebounded 48-30 in the game, including 19-11 on the offensive glass. That disparity combined with poor shooting ultimately decided the game.
“We’re a smaller team every game out so we have to take that responsibility and our guards need to rebound more,” Finkbeiner said.
USU took an early 5-0 lead behind back-to-back shots by freshman Makenlee Williams but the Bobcats fought back with a 7-0 run to take the advantage in the game with four minutes played.
Montana State took advantage of offensive rebounds and turnovers to push their lead to 16-9 with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
The Aggies regained the lead 22-21 with six minutes to play after a jumper by Johnson. It looked as if USU would take the lead into halftime, but the Bobcats tied the game 32-32 with 31 seconds left on the clock. Christensen had a chance to put the Aggies ahead to close the half but her 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the side of the backboard.
Johnson went into the break with 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Christensen had five points while shooting 2-11 from the field. As a team, the Aggies shot 39.3 percent from the floor.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, both teams traded possessions and leads but neither team led by more than four points.
Montana State pushed the lead to seven points with eight minutes to play, but back-to-back 3-point-plays by junior Jennifer Schlott and Johnson cut the lead to 53-52. That was the closest USU came for the rest of the game.
“We have to get inside the paint and get some fouls to get to the free throw line,” Johnson said.
Despite two clutch 3-pointers by Christensen in the final minute, the Bobcats hung on to the win by hitting free-throws down the stretch.
“We are still in that learning curve right now,” Finkbeiner said. “It’s what does coach want and what does coach expect? What do we expect and what is predictable out there? It’s just not there yet.”
The Aggies will have to forget this loss quickly and move on as they hit the road once again to take on BYU on Tuesday night.
“We are always ready to go on the road, we are getting used to it,” Johnson said. “BYU is going to be a fun game. We will be ready tomorrow and get what we need to do to come out strong.”
The Cougars are 3-4 this season and are coming off back-to-back losses to Washington State and Creighton. Wins include Weber State, Dartmouth and Arizona.
BYU is led by sophomore guard Lexi Eaton. Easton is averaging 17 points and five rebounds in the first seven games of the season.
USU will also have to worry about 6-foot-7 junior center Jennifer Hamson. Hamson posted 23 points and 14 boards in her first game of the season against Creighton.
USU trails the all-time series with BYU 30-3. Last season the Cougars came into the Spectrum and handed the Aggies a 73-65 loss. USU hasn’t beat BYU since Dec. 7, 1978 when the Aggies beat the Cougars 80-72 at the Spectrum.
“All I can say about BYU is I don’t care who our opponent is right now, it’s all about us,” Finkbeiner said. “There is no predictability and there is no game plan consistency. BYU is definitely just as strong as any of these teams we’re playing, so we will have to play well.”
The Aggies will be looking for their first win against teams from the Beehive state after a 78-62 loss to Utah Valley 78-62 and a 92-64 defeat at the hands of Utah.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Marriott Center in Provo.