#9-SPARTANS BATTLE #8-AGGIES IN MW TOURNAMENT OPENER
San José State begins the Mountain West Championship Tournament on Wednesday with a first-round game against Utah State. The Spartans are looking to avenge the loss suffered at t he hands of the Aggies earlier this season in San Jose. All-Mountain West First Team choice Brandon Clarke and the Spartans tipoff at 11:00 a.m. (PT) at the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans can watch the game live on the Mountain West Network or listen to Justin Allegri and Jess Knaster on KLIV 1590 AM.
Mountain West Tournament Round 1
#9-San José State (14-15, 7-11 MW) vs. #8-Utah State (13-16, 7-11 MW)
Wednesday, March 8, 11:00 a.m. (PT)
Thomas & Mack Center (18,000)
Las Vegas, Nev.
TV: Mountain West Network
Radio: KLIV 1590 AM
Mountain West Championship Central
OFF THE TOP
Spartan forward Brandon Clarke is All-Mountain West First Team while Utah State's Jalen Moore is a second-team choice and Aggies' Koby McEwen is the league's freshman of the year ... San José State lost to Utah State 81-75 in the only meeting of the season on February 22 in San Jose ... The Spartans are 0-2 at the Mountain West Tournament were the 11th seed in both contests ... A win for the Spartans would snap a 19-game losing streak to Utah State which goes back 11 years.
SPARTANS AT THE MW TOURNAMENT
This is San José State's third trip to the championship since joining the league in 2013-14. SJSU has been knocked out of the first round in both appearances with losses to Boise State in 2014 and to Colorado State last season. The Spartans were the 11th seed in both of those contests making this year's ninth seed the highest in the short history as MW members. The last win for San José State at a conference tournament was at the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Tournament with wins over Hawai'i (75-74) and Idaho (74-68).
CLARKE IS ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FIRST TEAM & ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
Sophomore forward Brandon Clarke was selected to the All-Mountain West First Team by the league's head coaches. He is the first Spartan to earn a first-team nod since Adrian Oliver was first-team All-WAC in 2011-12. Clarke was the only player in the Mountain West to finish top-three in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots during league play. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game to lead the conference while averaging 19.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. Clarke has now been honored by the Mountain West in consecutive seasons after being the Sixth-Man of the Year as a freshman last season.
CLARKE'S DEFENSE FUELS THE OFFENSE
Brandon Clarke was one of the Mountain West scoring leaders all year long, but if you ask him he'll tell you his primary focus is on the defensive end. He averaged 2.8 blocks per Mountain West game to lead the league this year. He has a chance to build on his SJSU single-season blocks record with 75 coming into Wednesday's game and Clarke is second all-time with 114 career swats. The Mountain West All-Defensive team honoree finished second on the team in the regular season with 33 steals.
San José State head coach Dave Wojcik guided the Spartans to a 14-15 regular season record and increased the number of Mountain West wins again this year to seven. Two years ago the team went 2-28 without a Division I win. Then last year SJSU won nine games and went 4-14 in MW play. The College of Charleston owns the best two-year improvement in the NCAA at 16.0 games and San José State is second with a 12.5 game improvement.
FIRST MEETING WITH UTAH STATE
San José State got 15 second-half points from Ryan Welage, but it wasn't enough as the Spartans lost 81-75 to Utah State at home in the only meeting of the year. It was Utah State's only road victory during Mountain West play. The Aggies shot 54.9 percent for the game and freshmen guards Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill gashed SJSU with a combined 45 points. Welage finished with a team-high 20 points for the Spartans and Brandon Clarke had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
SERIES HISTORY WITH UTAH STATE
San José State has beaten Utah State just once in the last 11 years, and a win on Wednesday would snap a 19-game losing streak to the Aggies. The last Spartan win came at home on February 18, 2008 by a score of 70-67. Utah State owns a commanding 58-21 advantage in the all-time series which dates back to December of 1935.
SPARTANS GO WHERE THE GUARDS TAKE THEM
San José State knows what it's going to get from the All-Mountain West first-teamer Brandon Clarke. So it's the play of the guards which have dictated results in both directions during league play. Freshman point guard Terrell Brown was the spark that ignited SJSU on a four-game winning streak earlier this season, and Jalen James was at his best when SJSU pulled out wins over Fresno State and Air Force. But in four straight losses to end the regular season the starting guards combined to shoot 33.7 percent. In the loss to Wyoming in the regular season finale Spartan guards combined to shoot 25 percent and had 12 turnovers.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
Terrell Brown entered the starting lineup for San José State on January 28 against UNLV and proceeded to deliver four straight victories over UNLV (2), New Mexico and San Diego State. While running the Spartans' offense for the first time Brown averaged 14.0 points and nearly three assists in 36.5 minutes per game during the streak. His quickness changed the dynamic of the SJSU offense and that led to the win streak over three teams that combine for 11 Mountain West Titles. Brown was averaging 15.3 minutes over 12 games as a reserve before being inserted into the starting lineup.
WELAGE IN A GROOVE FROM DEEP
Ryan Welage has made the most threes on the team with 51, but more importantly than volume is his percentage in the final two weeks of the season. The sophomore forward is 10-of-16 (62.5%) from deep over the last four games when he is averaging 17.3 points per game. He finished the month of February shooting 46.9 percent from the field and ended the regular season last week with 19 points at Wyoming when he drained 3-of-5 from deep. He's shooting 43.5 percent from downtown for the season.