Only Meeting With Rebels Happens Wednesday Night On ESPN 3
Feb. 8, 2016
SPARTANS AND REBELS MEET FOR THE ONLY TIME WEDNESDAY
San José State, the winner of two straight Mountain West games, heads into the Thomas & Mack Center to meet UNLV for the only time this season for a 7:00 p.m. tip on ESPN 3. The 74-40 loss suffered in Vegas last season is nothing but a distant memory as a retooled San José State team brings in momentum from two straight league wins. Meanwhile, the Rebels have a top-three offense and defense in the MW this year and will look to use firepower in both areas to rebound from a 111-104 loss in double-overtime just days ago at Fresno State.
San José State (8-15, 3-8 MW) at UNLV (13-11, 4-7 MW)
Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
Thomas & Mack Center (18,000)
Las Vegas, Nev.
WATCH: ESPN 3
LISTEN: Stretch Internet Radio
SPARTANS TOP BULLDOGS FOR THIRD MW WIN
Frank Rogers scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and the Spartans hit big shot after big shot on the way to a 65-53 win over Fresno State. It was the second straight win in conference play, a feat which the team hadn't achieved since the 2011 season when it won five straight Western Athletic Conference games. Brandon Clarke scored 14 points to go along with his season-high 15 rebounds. Isaac Thornton made the play of the game when he scored a bucket, and made the foul shot. The Spartans put the game away making 14 of 15 from the line in the final 7:43. Fresno State's Marvelle Harris, the league's third-leading scorer, was held to a season-low seven points on 2 of 16 shooting.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WIN NUMBER EIGHT
The Spartans' eighth win of the season was significant for a number of reasons. It was the team's third win in conference play, the most since joining the Mountain West in 2013-14, and the most overall since the 2011-12 team went 5-11 in the Western Athletic Conference. After winning seven games in his first year, head coach Dave Wojcik now has a chance to increase his single-season best for wins during the remainder of this season. Finally, the win was against Fresno State, a bitter rival which the program has played against more than any opponent since the first year of SJSU basketball in 1909-10.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WIN NUMBER NINE
The Spartans are one of three teams with a 3-8 record in Mountain West play. Sitting right above the Spartans are the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV (4-7), Wednesday's opponent. At the very least, a victory for SJSU would make the middle of the Mountain West pack even more crowded as San Diego State (11-0) begins to pull away.
KEYS TO VICTORY
If you're asking how the Spartans were able to pull off two MW wins in a row, the answer is defense. Air Force and Fresno State averaged just 53.5 points, which is 20.5 points below SJSU opponents' average this season. The Falcons and Bulldogs combined to shoot 31.6 percent from the floor, while SJSU shot 41.6 percent. Hayden Graham and Marvelle Harris, the leading scorers for Air Force and Fresno State respectively, were limited to a combined 4 of 27 shooting and 13 points. The defensive combination of Princeton Onwas and Jaycee Hillsman shut down Harris, the league's third-leading scorer, to the tune of a season-low seven points. Finally, San José State made 82.6 percent of its free throws (38-46), far above the regular season average of 66.7 percent.
LEADERS OVER THE LAST THREE GAMES
Cody Schwartz, since finding his stroke on Colorado State (1/27), has continued to lead SJSU in scoring over the last three games at 13.7 ppg. Schwartz is shooting 56.0 percent from the floor and 52.2 percent from downtown during that stretch. Brandon Clarke has grabbed 8.7 rebounds per contest over the last three to lead the team, and his 10 blocks during that span are a team-best by far. Isaac Thornton is the assist (13) and steals (6) leader during the stretch, and has made all 11 of his free throw attempts.
SAN JOSé STATE VS. UNLV
Wednesday's meeting with UNLV inside the Thomas & Mack Center will be exactly 13 months from a 74-40 beating suffered there last season. But that result is a fading memory as a rebuilt Spartans team goes back to Vegas where is hasn't won since 1994. The last win against UNLV home or away was in 1996 by the Spartans' team which won the '96 Big West Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Runnin' Rebels control the all-time series 34-4.
MEN'S HOOPS RACES TO 75-54 WIN OVER AIR FORCE
The Spartans used four consecutive three-point baskets to open up a 12-0 lead and never looked back in the 75-54 win against Air Force. Jaycee Hillsman led the way with 13 points for SJSU which had three more players finish in double-figures scoring. The Spartans' defense held Air Force to 28.6 percent shooting for the game. Isaac Thornton contributed a season-high nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Brandon Clarke finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and a season-high five blocks.
CLARKE'S GAME IS COMING FULL CIRCLE
As the season wears on, freshman forward Brandon Clarke is beginning to fine-tune other areas of his game besides the efficient inside shooting. Clarke scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had a season-high five blocks in the win over Air Force, and backed that up with 14 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in the Fresno state win. He matched a season-high with seven offensive boards in that contest and is tied for third in that category during conference play. Clarke is averaging 11.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game over the last three contests.
JALEN FIGHTS THROUGH PAIN FOR SPARTANS' GAIN
Anyone who watched the game at Colorado State last Wednesday knows how much pain Jalen James was feeling after tweaking his ankle. But if you didn't watch that game, you would have never known that it happened based on his performance in the win over Air Force on Saturday. James scored a season-high 11 points and hit three shots from downtown to tie a career best. James was an efficient 4 of 7 from the field and managed one block, steal and assist to go along with his scoring in 11 minutes of action.
Jalen James called his teammate Isaac Thornton "the glue guy" during postgame interviews following the win over Air Force. Thornton has earned that reputation for his production in all facets of the game this season. He grabbed a season-high nine rebounds in the Air Force win. He's matched a season-high five assists in back-to-back games heading into Wednesday's tilt, and Thornton is SJSU's leader in steals with 30 this year. He has become the most trustworthy point guard option for head coach Dave Wojcik this season as far as facilitating the San José State offense.