Despite improvement, wins don't come for SJSU

The Spartans have played better in the second half of the conference season but still enter the final week of the regular season mired in last place in the WAC with a 1-11 record.

San Jose State fell behind New Mexico State 10-0 in a road game on Feb. 25, but rallied to take a first-half lead before succumbing to the Aggies' superior size. NMSU won 79-68.

"Our guys fought every second of the 40 minutes," said coach George Nessman.

"We were very focused. Ultimately, they just had too much inside power for us. They were able to get us on the block and foul out both of our centers. That was the difference between the two teams tonight."

Finding someone to complement post player Wil Carter has been a season-long dilemma for the Spartans, as neither senior Matt Ballard nor freshman Stephon Smith has been very productive.

That is one of the things that has held back SJSU, which entered this week ranked last in the WAC in rebounding margin (minus 4.8 per game) and shooting percentage (39.7).

That just makes it tough to win, as San Jose State knows very well.

"I think the meter is going in the right direction," Nessman said last week.

But the meter isn't moving fast enough this season. The Spartans end the regular season by hosting Utah State and Idaho this week.


Bad shooting equals just 49 points

--When San Jose State scored 49 points in a loss at Louisiana Tech on Feb. 23, it marked the Spartans' lowest point total of the conference schedule and the team's third-lowest output of the season. As often has been the case, SJSU was undone by poor shooting -- 17 of 49 (34.7 percent) vs. the Bulldogs. "Louisiana Tech's pressure and traps really bothered us," said coach George Nessman.

--The Spartans will say goodbye to four players on Senior Night against Idaho on March 3. They are: PF Wil Carter, C Matt Ballard, G Calvin Douglas and F Garrett Ton. Carter entered the final week of the regular season as the team's third-leading scorer (12.9 points per game), while Douglas was fifth (6.1).

--Here is one thing that has gone right for San Jose State and helped the Spartans compete: They lead the WAC in free throw shooting, making 74.5 percent through Feb. 25.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11.1 -- Average turnovers per game for San Jose State, through Feb. 25. That was the second-lowest figure in the WAC.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Fighting back isn't just about getting intense. It's about playing better basketball." -- SJSU coach George Nessman.



--vs. Utah State, March 1

KEY MATCHUPS: The Spartans didn't compete very well in the first meeting, won by Utah State 82-65, and had trouble with the athleticism of Aggies forward Kyisean Reed, who scored 21 points and made 7 of 9 shots. SJSU didn't have an injured Keith Shamburger in that game, so the Spartans should be more efficient on offense this time around.

--vs. Idaho, March 3

KEY MATCHUPS: Idaho big man Kyle Barone will be a worry for San Jose State. Barone had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Vandals won the first meeting of the season with the Spartans. He's a long, versatile big man who can beat defenders with the shot, the pass or on the drive. He entered the week with a career shooting percentage of 57.9 and should take advantage of a poor SJSU defense.

FUTURES MARKET: G D.J. Brown has had a solid freshman season, entering the week averaging 8.3 points and putting another decent 3-point shooter on the court with James Kinney and Keith Shamburger. Brown had a 33-point game against Cal State-Bakersfield in January. After getting experience starting together this season, that trio should be even more prolific in 2012-13.


--G James Kinney, a junior college transfer, was fourth in the WAC in scoring (15.8 points per game) through Feb. 25. He was the highest-scoring newcomer in the league.

--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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