Courtesy of Braidon Nourse

LAS VEGAS – The way the San Diego State women’s basketball team plays is often as suffocating as it is frustrating. Most nights, the Aztecs will squeeze turnovers from nothing, then make it tough to guess where exactly the attack is coming from on the other end.

No different was the style of play in their 72-51 win over San José State in the first round of the Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship on Sunday.

In dominant fashion, the Aztecs beat the Spartans for the third time this season, something which has now happened in both opening games of the tournament so far. It definitely is not the easiest of feats, which is part of the reason coach Stacie Terry-Hutson tries to separate the tournament from the regular season.

“People say that, but it’s a new season. The postseason is a third part of the season,” Terry-Hutson said. “So we just wanted to break it down and give them individual goals of what we were trying to do. We talked about post play, defending the post and limiting 3s.”

What separated this game from the last was largely the fact the Aztecs never looked in trouble. There was no slow start or trouble getting the ball to strike nylon like in the game between Air Force and Fresno State. Instead, the Aztecs jumped out to an 8-0 lead in just more than three minutes.

The lead ballooned to 21-8 by the time the first quarter ended. San Diego State never looked back.

With the help of drawing three offensive fouls in the first quarter alone, the Aztecs disrupted any flow the Spartans tried to create before anything came to fruition.

A quarter like that certainly boosts confidence. Ending the half with a 19-point lead even more so. But guard Abby Prohaska, who tallied 12 points and five rebounds, knows games aren’t always decided in 20 minutes.

“I mean, it’s the postseason. Anything can happen,” Prohaska said. “We watched games before our game even started and saw some upsets. So you’ve just got to know you have to stay locked in for 40 minutes. It doesn’t matter what the score is, every single time you come out after halftime, it’s 0-0, no matter if you’re up 20 or you’re down 20.”

One of three Aztecs in double figures, Prohaska profited from her team’s style of play, which on this day came with more assists than the team is accustomed to – 19 on the day. That was, perhaps, the biggest positive from the day, if you ask Prohaska or Terry-Hutson.

Not the 21-point margin of victory. Or scoring 27 points as a result of forcing 27 turnovers.

“I think that’s our bread and butter,” Prohaska said. We always say in the locker room before we go out that our priority should be to share the ball. We play better when every single person on the court touches it. Nineteen assists, I mean that’s what we talked about going in, making sure everybody has a hand in what we’re doing.”

The win sends the Aztecs onto the quarterfinal on Monday against the second-seeded New Mexico Lobos.

In many ways, it’s an even matchup. Both teams have four players averaging double figures this season. The home team won each of the previous matchups this year. Both teams have multiple guards who can score at will on any given night.

“We’re going to have our work set out for us to stay in front of them, and they have perimeter shooters as well,” Terry-Hutson said. “So we’re really going to have to lock in defensively and then we’ve got to see that ball go in the basket. We have to get out and run and take care of the ball.”