In an early-season battle for the lead, sophomore Asia Abinger and her San Diego State women’s basketball teammates clinched the top spot in the Mountain West Conference in the first quarter.
Azteca not only started against UNLV, but suffered their first home setback of the season at the Viejas Arena on Saturday, losing to the defending conference champions 76-70.
Avinger scored 8 of her 25 points with 4:19 starting to help SDSU (12-4, 2-1) take a 10-2 lead. The Aztecs were leading 19-12 in the first quarter, but at halftime she drew 34-31 and never led again.
“I tried my best and tried my best to execute the play to the best of my ability,” said Abinger, who added a season-high 25 points and six assists. “They did better than us. We have to come back and prepare for the next game.”
The Rebels (14-2, 4-0) have four returnable starters, a five-game streak ahead of SDSU and a 10th-place finish in their last 11 games.
Going into the match, the Aztecs had their best result since the team went unbeaten at home (15-0) in 2008-09, winning all nine home games this season. The loss also snapped a 12-game home winning streak.
SDSU coach Stacey Terry Hutson promised to study basketball a lot during the holidays this semester, saying, “We have to think about what we did well and where we can improve.” It was a good game and fun to watch for the fans, but there are a lot of areas that need to be refined.”
The Aztecs were just 3/24 (13%) from their 3-point range, but 29/68 (43%) overall. In his previous two games, he shot over 55 percent each time while pulling off his best start since 1995-96 (12-3).
It was also disappointing that UNLV enjoyed a 19-1 advantage in second-chance points.
SDSU went scoreless in the final 3:52 of the first half, but the Rebels mounted a 9-0 run for a three-point edge. Aztecs Sofia Ramos was blanked in the first half before she sunk a 3-pointer in a 34-34 draw, but UNLV responded with her 11-3 surge.
Ramos finished with 10 points, increasing his career total to 1,736, three points ahead of Felicia Wright (1992-95) and second on the Aztecs’ all-time scoring list. Judy Porter (1980-83) tops the list with 2,315 points.
Kim Villalobos scored a season-high 17 points for the Aztecs, going 7-9 from the field and Yammy Morris adding 10.
SDSU limited current Conference Player of the Year Desi Ray Young to two points in the first half. However, she finished with 16 with 16 rebounds.
The Aztecs finished 68-64 with 4:09 remaining, but gave up the next six points to stave off any further reversals.
“We are more important than other teams,” Avinger said. “It’s about improving every day.”
The Aztecs, who were seventh in the 11-team conference last season (8-10), have the most wins since 2012-13 and surpass the 15-win milestone set last season (15-16). I’m on track to get better.
Thien is a freelance writer.