Spartans off the mark during losing streak

The Spartans, which lost their first five conference games by an average of 13.2 points, has been struggling to find the range -- not only in the WAC but all season.

San Jose State (6-13 overall) entered the week last in the conference in field goal percentage, making just 38.4 percent in all games and 36.9 percent in league games.

There doesn't appear to be any easy answers. The Spartans rely on their outside shooting about as much as any team in the WAC, and that shooting touch is going to run hot and cold. SJSU doesn't have a complement up front to Wil Carter.

In fact, San Jose State has turned in the majority of the worst shooting performances in the WAC this season, including:

--20.0 percent at Cal
--24.4 percent vs. Cal Poly
--27.6 percent vs. UC Irvine
--28.5 percent at Cal Poly
--29.6 percent at Santa Clara

One of those shots that didn't fall was Keith Shamburger's short jumper in the lane with five seconds against Louisiana Tech on Jan. 21. That would have tied the game, but it was off the mark and the Bulldogs grabbed the rebound. Tech made two late free throws for a 71-67 victory.

"We missed shots in the lane, and missed shots on the break a couple of times that really could have altered the outcome of the game," coach George Nessman said.

"The biggest thing for our guys is to not get discouraged. It's tough. We've lost five in a row. It's really tough. It's very painful to be a part of it. At the same time, we have to keep our heads up and turn around and keep pursuing victories."


Starting lineup remains in flux

--As a sign of how coach George Nessman has struggled to find a complementary group to PG Keith Shamburger, SG James Kinney and PF Wil Carter, the Spartans have started 11 different players this season.
--Coach George Nessman had high praise for Weber State's Damian Lillard, who led Division I in scoring with 25.1 points per game through Jan. 19. Lillard poured in 41 points in a double-overtime win over the Spartans in December. "He's the classic problem," Nessman said in USA Today. "He can shoot the ball from deep on the perimeter, and he can attack you off the dribble. When you have a player who can do both of those things equally well, it becomes problematic."
--C/F Chris Cunningham transferred to San Jose State from Santa Clara over the summer. Cunningham (6-8, 225) averaged 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds a game for Santa Clara. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits out in 2011-12.

BY THE NUMBERS: 79.0 -- Points allowed per game by San Jose State through five conference games, which was the worst mark in the WAC.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are still making a few mental errors under duress that we can't have." -- Coach George Nessman, after the 71-67 loss to Louisiana Tech on Jan. 21.



--vs. Cal State Bakersfield, Jan. 23

KEY MATCHUPS: San Jose State will try to end a five-game losing streak against Cal State Bakersfield, which is 11-9, including a 72-44 loss to the WAC's Idaho. The matchup shouldn't be too much of a problem, size-wise, for the Spartans; they just need some 3-pointers to fall at the end of this three-game homestand.

--at Idaho, Jan. 26

KEY MATCHUPS: San Jose State might not have a good answer for Idaho's high-energy F Djim Bandoumel. He's not the Vandal's primary threat on offense, but the 6-foot-7 senior either will be too athletic for SJSU's big man or too big for SJSU's wings. Overall, Idaho is an efficient, disciplined team on offense (shooting 47.7 percent from the field) while the Spartans are not.

--at Utah State, Jan. 28

KEY MATCHUPS: Utah State doesn't have the size and skill in the frontcourt that it usually has, so the Spartans might not get overwhelmed on the glass as has often happened this season. The focus turns to the backcourt, where San Jose State PG Keith Shamburger will have to control the athletic Brockeith Pane, who does a good job of getting into the lane and making something happen.

FUTURES MARKET: Coach George Nessman was awarded a three-year contract through the 2013-14 season last summer, despite modest success. Yes, the team's 17 victories last season were their most since 1981 and the Spartans' eked out their first winning season since 1994, but SJSU was still only 5-11 in the WAC. This season, without high-scoring Adrian Oliver and veteran PG Justin Graham, the Spartans have taken a step back. Is Nessman, in his seventh season, the right man for the job? That might be the debate for a while because Nessman has some job security, at least through next season.


--Senior PF Wil Carter needs to stay on the court as much as possible as he's SJSU's primary threat on offense in the paint, but he has battled foul trouble. He fouled out of three of the first 19 games and was averaging 3.5 fouls per game.
--SG James Kinney entered the week third in the WAC in scoring at 16.2 points per game. He was shooting 42.2 percent on 3-pointers (54 of 128).

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