San Jose State is one of two teams that has pretty much taken Utah State to the woodshed this season.
Notre Dame, currently ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll, is the other.
The Aggies allowed each team to score more than 100 points and while some people expected the Irish to thoroughly handle USU, the fact the Spartans did came as a complete surprise.
“We watched a lot of film on that to start practice (on Wednesday),” USU guard Devyn Christensen said. “We’re pretty fresh on the reminder that they did take it to us pretty bad. That was our worst game collectively as a team.
“... It was a combination of them shooting the lights out and us not being able to throw a rock in the ocean from the beach.”
Christensen and the Aggies are looking for a little payback tonight when they host San Jose State in a Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball game. Tip-off from the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is slated for 7 o’clock.
“San Jose just thumped us, and we’re looking forward to this rematch because there’s a lot on the line,” USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “We’re in first place and we want to keep that. It’s more than a revenge game because I really don’t believe in revenge. It’s more about us trying to achieve our goals and not letting San Jose State having anything to do with it.”
The Aggies (12-10, 9-2 WAC) have won six straight games and 10 of their last 12. In fact, their last loss was at the hands of the Spartans (9-13, 6-5), 103-80 on Jan. 12.
“We’ve made adjustments since then and we’re on a winning streak,” Christensen said. “All of that is out the door. We play a little bit different now than we did then, so we’re just excited to see what kind of adjustments we can make that will be a different result than a 30-point loss.”
Christensen is on the verge of making history. The 5-foot-7 native of Caldwell, Idaho, needs just nine points tonight to become USU’s all-time scoring leader.
Jerrie McGahan (1977-80) currently holds the top spot with 1,353 career points.
“It’s an honor because I love Utah State so much,” Christensen said. “I’ve loved my experience on the campus, in the community. I just love Logan in general and the people here have always been very supportive, very kind and warm. Just to do that in front of those fans would be a special thing.
“Any time that I’m playing and I hear people cheer for me from the sidelines — like little things that they know only I can hear; people who are sitting close to the court — I really appreciate those type of fans that say stuff and are encouraging.”
Christensen will have plenty of friends and family in the stands to hopefully see her break McGahan’s record. Christensen, the Aggies’ leading scorer at 19.9 points per game, was also quick to credit her teammates.
“They set me up for a lot of my shots and it’s not something that’s an individual thing because I just don’t get a rebound and dribble coast-to-coast every time I touch the ball,” Christensen said. “It’s a team game. It’s a team award, especially for Jenna (Johnson) and Pua (Furtado), the seniors that came in with me. It’s something for them, too, because they’ve been a part of it just as much as I have.”
SJSU limited Christensen to just 13 points on 4 for 25 shooting from the field, including 0 for 11 from 3-point range.
The Spartans also outrebounded the Aggies 56-44 and dominated the points in the paint, 48-26.
“They dominated us in the post position, just pure dominance,” Finkbeiner said. “... That’s a focus point of Franny (Vaaulu), Haylee (Thompson), Stephanie (Bairstow) and Jenna, and a challenge for them. Their guards are pretty athletic and pretty strong. Our guards are athletic, we’re a little bit small, but it’s a good matchup.”
SJSU is 5-2 over its last seven games. Three players average in double figures for the Spartans, led by Ta’Rea Cunnigan (20.6 ppg). Riana Byrd averages 10.9 ppg and 10.0 rebounds per game, while Emily Schill contributes 10.8 ppg.
Finkbeiner is hoping for a large crowd tonight.
“It’s a big game for the women,” the coach said. “Our last game last week against Seattle, I really felt like the crowd influenced our play down the stretch and really helped us. ... We’re beginning to turn some heads a little bit and we want to appeal to our student body and Cache Valley to help keep us on top.”