Utah State’s celebration of its thrilling buzzer-beating victory over New Mexico State was short-lived.
That’s because the Aggies quickly turned their attention to Denver, tonight’s opponent.
Fresh off its 65-63 win over NMSU, USU welcomes the Pioneers to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Tip-off for this Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball game is slated for 7 p.m.
“Denver is also a good team,” said guard Jennifer Schlott, who scored 21 points Thursday night against NMSU. “We just have to keep playing our game plan, keep executing. We can’t go on droughts because lately we’ve been doing that.”
Freshman Makenlee Williams hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Aggies (7-10, 4-2 WAC) on Thursday. The victory helped USU get back on track following a 23-point loss at San Jose State.
“New Mexico State is a good school, a good program, so to get a win like this is great,” Schlott said shortly after the game.
While the Aggies were winning at the buzzer on Thursday, the Pioneers (8-10, 3-4) were doing the exact opposite.
Trailing San Jose State 68-67 with five seconds remaining, Denver called timeout. Following the break in the action, the Pioneers couldn’t convert on a pair of field goal attempts and the Spartans held on at home.
“It’s hard to lose another close one, but the thing that gives the team confidence is that we’re right there,” Denver head coach Kerry Cremeans said. “We’re in every game and we know it’s just the little things like free throws or layups that really make the difference.
“The fight and the heart are always there, and the pride for this university is always there. We’ll continue to work hard.”
The Pioneers have lost their last two games by a combined four points. In fact, they have lost four of their last five games by five points or fewer.
It seems as if USU also likes to play in close contests. Of the Aggies’ last eight games, four of them have been decided by three points or fewer and two of them needed overtime.
USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner is expecting another tight game tonight.
“I’d just tell the local Cache Valley people it’s going to be another close game,” Finkbeiner said. “If you want to come get your money’s worth and have a little excitement and get the adrenaline pumping and sweat a little bit, come watch Aggie women’s basketball.
“I would have every expectation that it’s going to be a close game. It’s just the way we are. And the league is very even. Nobody is dominating this league.”
Morgan Van Riper-Rose is the only Denver player averaging in double-figure scoring at 14.2 points per game.
Van Riper-Rose led the Pioneers against the Spartans, scoring 19 points — 14 in the first half alone.
USU was without the services of reserve guard Pualei Furtado on Thursday due to an illness — she was not even in the arena and her presence was missed.
“She lifts our team, she’s like an energy plug,” Schlott said. “She’s just a little bug out there, or something, really. It hurt definitely. We missed her, but people stepped up.”
The Aggies are 5-2 over their last seven games and have won four straight at home.
“There’s still a lot that we need to work on and we haven’t hit our peak yet, but that’s good,” Schlott pointed out. “During the conference tournament, that’s when we want to be playing our best.”
Devyn Christensen was held to 12 points against NMSU, but she continues to lead USU in scoring at 20.1 ppg. Schlott and Jenna Johnson average 13.9 ppg apiece.