Women's basketball: S.F. State likes its various changes

San Francisco State women’s basketball coach Joaquin Wallace is reluctant to promise any specific degree of success for his team this winter, satisfied to say merely, “We feel like we are better than last year.”

His players are not so shy in declaring themselves a threat.

After two close exhibition losses, speaking relatively considering the Divison II Gators played on the road at Division I schools Santa Clara and USF, high scorer Krystle Mays announced, “That shows us we’re up there. So when we get to our league, we should be killing it, killing everybody.”

The Gators will start finding out how good they open their season today at Pacific at 5 p.m.

Mays led theGators with 12.8 points per game last year, and had 15 points against USF. But she also fouled out in that game, indicating a dichotomy that has been chief among Wallace’s challenges since taking charge of the program two years ago.

SFSU’s defense has been stout and aggressive, reaching 20th in the nation in steals in 2006-07 and leading the California Collegiate Athletic Association in steals and turnovers forced. But aggressive play has come at the expense of offense, with the Gators scoring just more than 60 points per game en route to a 6-21 record, including 6-16 in the CCAA.

In service of that problem, Wallace said he actively recruited playmakers who can create shots and who are skilled in the half court. He helped induce 5-foot-9 freshman forward Morgan Aycox to come all the way from Bartlett, Ill.

“We’re going to push the ball up the floor, play intense and get teams to go outside of their systems,” Aycox said. “We have a lot of new talent and good shooters.”

Aycox said she was attracted by the way Wallace, entering his second season, was developing the program.

“This is the first core unit [I’ve had] that’s played the AAU circuit,” Wallace said. “Their basketball IQ is more advanced because they’ve been in more involved games.”

Joining Mays and Aycox in the frontcourt is 5-foot-10 senior Brio Rode of Albuquerque, N.M. Despite her height, Rode is a distance-shooting expert who topped the CCAA in 3-pointers last season.

Rode officially missed all eight of her treys against USF, but that discounts a beautiful and deep arc she drilled over a defender that was negated by an interior foul called on Mays.

Wallace hoped the warmups against Division I teams set the stage for comfort and success in difficult road environments during the season. Progress from last season to this season could certainly be seen.

“It’s a tremendous job to be doing this early in the season,” Santa Clara Michelle Bento-Jackson said of the Broncos’ 75-69 win over SFSU. “From last year to this year, they’re showing great improvement. His personnel is quite different from last year. They’re much more disciplined with more intensity.”

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