The San Diego State women’s basketball team could well be described as a mixture of old and new.
The Aztecs, who host New Mexico for a matinee (noon MST) game on Thursday, are anchored by fifth-year players Sophia Ramos, Mercedes Staples and Alex Crain, all quite familiar to Lobos fans.
There are also four new faces who have played key roles in getting San Diego State (14-5, 4-2 Mountain West) off to an unusually fast start. The thing is, those players are only new to SDSU.
Aztecs coach Stacie Terry-Hutson went all-in for experience during the offseason, adding upperclassmen from high-profile programs. Yummy Morris (TCU), Abby Prohaska (Notre Dame) and Sarah Barcello (Marist) are super senior (taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID year), while Meaghan Fiso (Michigan) is a junior.
“They’re such an old team,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said of the Aztecs. “I mean that in terms of minutes played and experience. They’ve got a ton of games under their belts and have probably seen pretty much everything.”
To this point, the transfer-laden lineup has come together nicely for Terry-Hutson, whose team is well on its way to posting its first winning record in her 10 seasons as head coach. The Aztecs pose a stiff challenge for the up-and-down Lobos (10-8, 2-3), who will be wrapping up a difficult stretch in which four of their last five games have been on the road against MWC contenders.
UNM’s starters did not play well in Saturday’s 79-63 loss at UNLV, getting outscored 65-25 by their Rebels counterparts. Leading scorer Shaiquel McGruder was shut out for the first time since an 89-60 loss at Houston early last season.
Bradbury was not satisfied with his team’s preparation for UNLV, but liked what he saw this week before the Lobos boarded a flight for San Diego on Wednesday afternoon.
“Three really good practices,” he said. “I think we’re all ready to put (Saturday’s) game behind us.”
In addition to getting McGruder involved, UNM will need to capitalize on scoring opportunities against the Aztecs’ stingy defense. The Lobos rank fourth in the Mountain West in 3-point shooting percentage (33.2%) with by far the most attempts (485).
San Diego State has limited foes to a league-best 27.5% shooting from 3-point range and allows an MWC-low 55.1 points per game.
“(The Aztecs) play excellent defense,” Bradbury said. “We need to move the ball well but we’ll also have to hit some tough shots. They don’t give up many easy ones. They just don’t.”
The Aztecs also share the ball well and do not rely on a single primary scorer. SDSU shoots 35.4% from 3-point range, led by Ramos and Staples, who are both above 40% accuracy this season.
READY FOR ACTION? Sophomore Paula Reus, who had offseason knee surgery, sat out UNM’s practices Monday and Tuesday because of soreness but returned Wednesday and is expected to play. … SDSU has been without Fiso (undisclosed injury) since early December, but she is expected to return, perhaps as soon as Thursday.