SPARTANS CONTINUE ROAD TRIP AT AIR FORCE
San José State continues the week-long road trip this Saturday at Air Force. Tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m. (MT) on the Mountain West Network. The game can be heard on KLIV 1590 AM with Justin Allegri's play-by-play call.
TV: Mountain West Network
Radio: KLIV 1590 AM
OFF THE TOP
San José State and Air Force split two games last season, each team winning on its home floor ... A win for the Spartans on Saturday would be their first at Air Force since 1997 ... SJSU's 74-53 win last year ended a five-game losing streak to the Falcons ... Jaycee Hillsman averaged 12.0 points in the two meetings with Air Force last season and finished the series 8-of-13 shooting from the floor ... Air Force has four players averaging double-figures scoring on the year, led by Hayden Graham at 12.1 ppg ... Brandon Clarke (21.5 ppg) is one of six players in the Mountain West currently averaging 20 or more points per league game.
FOUL TROUBLE HURTS SJSU
Leading scorer and rebounder Brandon Clarke got into major foul trouble early on at San Diego State, forcing him to the bench with three at the 14:23 mark in the opening period. Starting guard Gary Williams, Jr., was also forced to the bench with two fouls within the first three minutes of the game. San José State fell into a deep first-half hole and trailed by 19, 42-23, at the break. A little surge to start the second half brought the game within 13 points, but SJSU was unable to fully climb out of the hole and lost 76-61.
LIMITED MINUTES, MAJOR PRODUCTION
Brandon Clarke was only on the court for 26 minutes at San Diego State, but he made the most of them scoring 25 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots. He also finished with a season-high four assists. San José State was +3 with him on the floor, and beat SDSU in the second half, 38-34, with Clarke on the floor for every minute. Clarke finished the game 11-of-15 shooting and improved his MW-best shooting percentage during league play to 64.8 percent.
GUARDS GUIDE SPARTANS ONE WAY OR THE OTHER
Spartan guards Gary Williams, Jr., and Jalen James have started the last three games, and San José State's success has hinged on their production. The two combined for their best game of the year in the win over Fresno State, scoring 30 points on 16 shots. Williams, Jr., made changed the game by driving the lane, getting fouled and making 11-of-12 attempts from the stripe. James hit 5-of-8 shots and finished with 12 points and four assists. But in losses to Colorado State and most recently San Diego State, James and Williams combined to shoot 11-for-40 from the floor. Both players are having the best season of their Spartan careers and SJSU has been depending on them to keep that trend alive in order to win games.
SPARTAN RANKS DURING MW PLAY
Brandon Clarke is one of five players in the Mountain West currently averaging 20 or more points per league game. Other top MW rankings during league play include Clarke's 64.8 shooting percentage (1st), E.J. Boyce's 50.0% shooting clip from downtown (T4th), 2.8 blocks per game for Clarke (3rd) and Jalen James' 4.3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio (2nd).
SERIES HISTORY WITH AIR FORCE
SJSU trails Air Force 4-5 in the all-time series. The two teams first met at the academy back in 1971 ending in a 74-67 Spartan victory. San José State split meetings with the Falcons last season in MW play, dropping the first game 64-57 on the road and winning game two in San Jose, 75-54. The win halted Air Force's five-game winning streak over SJSU and was only the second win of the series at home.
HILLSMAN VS. AIR FORCE
Last season Jaycee Hillsman was the second-leading scorer for the Spartans in the Air Force series at 12.0 points per game. He sank 8-of-13 shots combined and knocked down 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. Jaycee was a big part of the way SJSU raced out of the gate in the 74-53 win in the second game.
MORE ON AIR FORCE
The Falcons enter Saturday with a 2-2 record in league play and most recently beat Fresno State at home on January 11. The other MW win against Utah State also came at Clune Arena where Air Force is 9-2 overall this year. Hayden Graham leads a very balanced scoring team at 12.1 points per game. Three other Falcons average double-figures scoring. Air Force has a number a high-percentage shooters with five players shooting over 48% with a minimum of three attempts per game.
SPARTANS GET FIRST MW WIN OF THE YEAR AGAINST RIVAL BULLDOGS
The Spartans beat Fresno State 69-62 last Saturday for their first Mountain West win of the year. It marked consecutive victories over the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2009 season. San José State trailed by 15 at three different points during the first half. But Gary Williams, Jr., converted 11-of-12 free throws in the second half and SJSU got timely threes from Ryan Welage and Cody Schwartz to mount the comeback. It was Jalen James who hit the go-ahead bucket with 21 seconds remaining, and then Williams put the game away with free throws after Bulldogs head coach Rodney Terry picked up two T's and was ejected in the final seconds.
GUARD PLAY STEPS UP IN FRESNO STATE WIN
Starting guards Gary Williams, Jr., and Jalen James combined to score 30 points on 16 shots in the 69-62 win over Fresno State. James continued to shoot the ball well from the outside, nailing 2-of-2 from deep, and he hit the go-ahead jumper with 21 seconds remaining. Williams earned 11 of his career-high 18 points at the free throw line. He added two rebounds, two assists and a steal to his line which all came in just 19 minutes of action. The performance came after the two went for a combined 14 points on 6-for-21 shooting in the previous 76-71 loss to Colorado State.
BC REMAINS SOLID
Brandon Clarke has continued to bring it in the early goings of Mountain West play averaging 20.5 points and 7.3 rebounds through the first four games. He's managed the success against some of the conference's top big-men including the league's rebounding leader in Emmanuel Omogbo and the league's top shot blocker in Cameron Oliver. The sophomore forward has been solid on defense as well and is in Oliver's rearview mirror in the blocks category at 2.3 per game. Clarke swatted five shots in the win over Fresno State, giving him four games this year with five or more blocks. His 64.8 shooting percentage during league play is tops in the MW by far.
Jalen James ENJOYING HIS BEST SEASON
Jalen James set out to be a veteran leader for the team's new wave of guards, and to date he's done exactly that. In his fourth year with the team, the redshirt junior has found his health and his shot. The career 30 percent 3-point shooter his connecting from downtown on 40.8 percent of his tries this year. He's is the team's top rebounding guard averaging 4.7 per game, and he just became the team's assist leader now with 42. James went beyond the numbers last game when he hit a stop-and-pop jumper to put the Spartans up 62-61 with 21 seconds remaining against Fresno State. On the ensuing Bulldogs possession James took a charge which gave SJSU the ball back for the game-icing free throws.
SPARTANS OWN BEST TURNOVER MARGIN IN THE LEAGUE
After forcing a Mountain West season-high 23 turnovers on Fresno State, the Spartans jumped to the top of the league for their +1.9 turnover margin against opponents. The Spartans force a MW-leading 15.1 turnovers per game on their opponents. Air Force is right there in the top five with SJSU with a +0.6 turnover margin.
After missing three consecutive games, E.J. Boyce returned against Colorado State to score 12 points of 4-of-7 shooting. He nailed timely 3-pointers including one which brought the Spartans within one point, 72-71, with under two minutes left in the game. Boyce added an assist, a steal and a block in 22 minutes off the bench.
REBOUNDING SCRIPT FLIPPED
San José State remains a top-fove team in rebounding margin this season in the Mountain West. However, SJSU has been beaten on the glass in four of the last five games. They managed to pull out the win over Fresno State despite being outrebounded 35-25.