March 6, 2013
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - The San Diego State women's basketball team clinched the outright Mountain West regular-season championship for the second year in a row Wednesday with a 73-55 triumph over Air Force at Clune Arena. With the victory, the Aztecs (23-5, 14-1 MW) extend their winning streak to 14 games and finish conference play with an 8-0 record on the road.
SDSU was led by sophomore Chairese Culberson (Oakland, Calif.), who came off the bench to notch her first collegiate double-double with career highs of 15 points and 13 rebounds, while the senior duo of Courtney Clements (Long Beach, Calif.) and Chelsea Hopkins (Las Vegas, Nev.) scored 14 points apiece.
The two sides combined for 36 turnovers in a mistake-prone game that also witnessed a collective 40 fouls. However, the Aztecs capitalized on the Falcons' (4-24, 3-12 MW) giveaways, maintaining a 32-15 advantage in points off turnovers, while outscoring the Air Force bench by a 26-11 margin.
In addition to the win, SDSU held its 14th straight opponent to 40 percent shooting or lower after limiting the Falcons to a 20-for-61 clip (32.8) for the game. Conversely, the Aztecs connected on 27 of 57 of their field goal attempts (47.4 percent) and went 16-for-23 from the free-throw line (69.6 percent).
SDSU built a quick 6-0 advantage after the first two minutes on consecutive layups by Clements and seniors Malia Nahinu (Hayward, Calif.) and Gabrielle Clark (Los Angeles, Calif.) However, the Scarlet and Black misfired on five of its next six shots, allowing Air Force to creep back into the game. A jumper by Missy Byrd with 13:54 remaining provided the hosts their only lead of the night at 9-8 before two Culberson foul shots and a Hopkins 3-pointer ignited 21-2 Aztec blitz over a span of nearly eight minutes. Air Force was just 1-for-8 from the field during that stretch and committed four turnovers, while Clark converted a layup to cap the run, putting SDSU up 29-11 with 5:25 left.
Alicia Leipprandt scored five of the Falcons' next seven points in an attempt to give her team some momentum. However, Clements answered with a layup and a jumper in the final minute to provide the Aztecs a 41-20 cushion at halftime.
Following the break, SDSU extended the margin to 47-20 on three straight baskets by sophomore Erimma Amarikwa (Vacaville, Calif.), Clements and Hopkins in the first minute-and-a-half. The game soon turned into a free-throw shooting contests as the two sides combined for 30 foul shots during the remainder of the period.
Air Force managed to trim the deficit to 60-41 following a pair of Katie Hilbig free throws with 8:01 left, but Culberson responded with five straight points, including an and-one opportunity to extinguish the threat.
Leipprandt led all scorers with 18 points, including an 8-for-10 effort at the charity stripe, while Hilbig completed a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
SDSU wraps up its regular-season slate on Saturday, March 9, when it entertains Boise State at 2 p.m. PT. Prior to the game, the Aztecs will hold a special ceremony as part of Senior Day festivities, recognizing this year's class of Niki Novak (San Diego, Calif.), Malia Nahinu, Gabrielle Clark, Chelsea Hopkins and Courtney Clements.