Neville E. Guard - USA TODAY Sports

SJSU men's basketball opens MWC play with 80-71 loss to Utah State

Utah State's hot 3-point shooting night kept the Spartans from closing the gap.

681 days and counting. This is the number of days since the San Jose State Spartans’ last win over a Mountain West Conference opponent, a 66-64 win over Nevada on Feb. 18, 2014 in Reno.

The Spartans continued their struggles in conference play with an 80-71 loss to the Utah State Aggies at the Event Center on Wednesday night. Never trailing by even one point, Utah State controlled the game for all 40 minutes. Whenever San Jose State put together good scoring runs, Utah State always had an answer.

Frank Rogers led the Spartans with 23 points and 11 rebounds, for his sixth double-double on the season. Cody Schwartz scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. Ryan Welage had 11 points and eight rebounds.

For Utah State, four players scored in double figures, with Jalen Moore leading the charge with 21 points. Although San Jose State won the rebounding battle 39-34, the perimeter defense allowed Utah State to hit 11 of 20 three-point attempts. San Jose State had 11 turnovers to Utah State’s eight.

Both teams went toe-to-toe in the first few minutes. After trailing 4-0, San Jose State tied the game at 7-7, with layups by Rogers and Isaac Thornton and a three by Schwartz. Utah State responded with eight straight points, five of which came from a three-pointer and inside jump shot by Jalen Moore. San Jose State kept battling and got within 23-21 with 6:41 left, off a Princeton Onwas dunk.

However, Utah State took advantage of empty San Jose State possessions. By the time San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik called a timeout seconds before the four-minute mark, Utah State had gone on an 11-2 run to lead 34-23. These 11 points included three three-point baskets. By halftime, Utah State had a 45-31 lead.

San Jose State began the second half with a 14-4 run, as Utah State had five missed shots and two turnovers in the first five and a half minutes. Putting San Jose State within 49-45, Ryan Welage hit a three-pointer following a Utah State turnover. This basket did not intimidate Utah State, as the Aggies began draining threes and drawing fouls to regain a double-digit lead, 58-47 inside 12 minutes to go.

As the second half dragged on, Utah State stretched its lead to as much as 17. San Jose State would not give up, and Utah State’s lead shrunk to 79-71 with 21 seconds left. Chris Smith made one of two free throws, and San Jose State’s Gary Williams missed his desperation three-point attempt. 80-71 would be the final score.

“In all the games we lost, we haven’t put together complete games,” remarked Schwartz after the game.

“We just really gotta keep focusing in practice, working on defense and rebounding,” Schwartz added.

Offensive rebounding helped keep San Jose State competitive in this game, as the Spartans got 17 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds. However, San Jose State missed nine free throws, compared to just four on Dec. 22 in the 128-66 win over Life Pacific.

“It just comes down to us working hard,” explained Frank Rogers, who recorded his sixth double-double this season with 23 points and 11 rebounds. “We just all collectively get after the offensive rebound, and it sparks our team.”

“They were on the floor for loose balls more. They hit timely shots. Unfortunately, we came up short tonight, but they were the more aggressive team tonight both on offense and defense,” stated coach Dave Wojcik.

Contrasting how Utah State had seniors and experienced players on the floor compared to the freshmen and sophomores in rotation for San Jose State, Wojcik explained that his players had much learning to do.

“They gotta understand the intensity of it and how you have to come out right from the get-go and complete a 40-minute game with the same intensity as you start the game throughout. That’s something we’re learning,” said Wojcik.

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