SJSU may get one more crack at Wolf Pack

San Jose State stayed close to the WAC-leading Wolf Pack before losing at home 76-70 on Feb. 11. That dropped the Spartans to 1-9 in the conference, last in the eight-team league.

It's not hard to imagine that Nevada will be the No. 1 seed and SJSU will be the No. 8 seed, meeting in an opening-round game of the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas on March 8.

If so, perhaps San Jose State will take something positive into that third meeting of the season against the Pack. On Feb. 11, the Spartans trailed by 13 early in the second half but battled back to tie the game at 48 with 12:40 to go on a basket by D.J. Brown.

San Jose State trailed by only three points with three minutes to go, but Nevada post Olek Czyz grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds and pushed the lead to five to help propel the Pack down the stretch. Czyz dominated in the second half, when he scored 23 of his career-high 27 points.

For the Spartans, it was another case of not being able to close out a game late.

"We had a chance at the finish," said guard James Kinney. "We just couldn't get over the hump."

Sounds like the story of the season for the Spartans, but they now shouldn't be totally intimidated by Nevada if the teams see each other again in March.


Story enjoys success against Spartans

--San Jose State has a hard time controlling Nevada SG Malik Story, who had 23 points in a road win over the Spartans on Feb. 11. Story had 29 points at San Jose State last season. "I'd say it's their defense," Story said of his success. "They sag, they lose shooters and it's just one of those games you have to be aggressive."
--A positive sign: The Spartans have played three rematches in WAC play and have fared much better in all three of those games. SJSU went from losing by 13 at Hawaii to an overtime loss vs. the Warriors. The Spartans lost at Fresno State by nine and then beat the Bulldogs in double overtime. And then SJSU, which lost by 24 at Nevada, hung close before losing by six.
--San Jose State was leading the WAC in free throw shooting (74.1 percent) through games of Feb. 11. G James Kinney was first in the league by making 86.4 percent (57 of 66).

BY THE NUMBERS: 39.5 -- Field goal percentage for San Jose State in 10 conference games, the worst mark in the WAC. It's a number symbolic of the Spartans' reliance on the outside shot.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our guys played with real good intensity. Our overall basketball quality is getting higher." -- Coach George Nessman, after his team fell 76-70 at home to Nevada.



--at Sacramento State, Feb. 18

KEY MATCHUPS: This is certainly one of the worst BracketBusters matchups, as the last-place team in the WAC takes on a Sacramento State team that is second-to-last in the Big Sky. This likely represents San Jose State's best chance for a win the rest of the season, as the Spartans have an arduous final four games in conference -- at Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State, and home for Utah State and Idaho.

FUTURES MARKET: Freshman G D.J. Brown and freshman C Stephon Smith are getting valuable experience this season, with each earning starting roles soon after the start of conference play. Brown is averaging 8.5 points and gives the Spartans another 3-point threat. Smith is averaging 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15 minutes per game, although all those numbers are climbing. With these two and the guard combination of Keith Shamburger and James Kinney, the Spartans figure to return four starters next season.


--G James Kinney scored 26 points against Nevada on Feb. 11, the most points scored by a Wolf Pack opponent this season. Kinney hit 6 of 13 3-point shots in the loss.
--Senior PF Wil Carter had a double-double (23 points, 12 rebounds) in the Feb. 9 win over Fresno State.
--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.

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