Four players scored in double figures for San Jose State men’s basketball as the Spartans defended a narrowing lead throughout the second half to beat the Wyoming Cowboys at home, 62-55. This win snapped a 27-game conference losing streak for San Jose State, with the team’s previous win in Mountain West Conference play being on Feb. 18, 2014 at Nevada.
Gary Williams, Jr. led San Jose State with 18 points, with Ryan Welage scoring 13, Frank Rogers 11, and Brandon Clarke 10. Williams, Welage, and Clarke had a three-way lead in rebounds with 7 each. For Wyoming, Alan Herndon had 14 points and 4 rebounds, Jason McManamen had 13 points and 2 rebounds, and Josh Adams had 10 points and 4 rebounds. This game was an aberration for Adams, who entered averaging 24.8 points per game, tops in the Mountain West Conference and fourth in all of Division I.
Rogers hit a layup off a long assist from Welage to put San Jose State up 2-0 in the first minute. Wyoming then scored 8 unanswered points, but San Jose State’s offense got a needed spark from Welage. Rebounding a missed three by Jaycee Hillsman, Welage hit a putback layup while drawing contact, then made the and-1 free throw to pull San Jose State within 8-5. After McManamen hit a three for Wyoming, Welage escaped his defender who was grabbing his jersey and responded with his own three.
On the ensuing possession, Wyoming’s Trey Washington III drove to the basket but dribbled the ball right into Welage’s hands. Off that turnover, Princeton Onwas missed a three, but Jaycee Hillsman saved the ball with one hand from flying out of bounds and heaved it to mid-court. As Wyoming focused on trying to steal Hillsman’s pass, Onwas got a wide open lane to drive to the basket and hit a layup to pull San Jose State within 11-10. San Jose State eventually took the lead back 13-11, after Williams made a reverse pass to a wide-open Rogers, who hit a three.
After trailing again 14-13, San Jose State went on an 11-3 run that began with a jumper and block back-to-back by Rogers. Jeremy Lieberman made one of two free throws, and Justin James made a layup, to put Wyoming within 24-19. Again, San Jose State had an answer, this time with 8 unanswered points to take a 32-19 lead, its largest lead of the game. By halftime, San Jose State led 34-23.
In the second half, Wyoming clawed away at that lead as San Jose State began missing shots and entered foul trouble. After Schwartz missed a three-pointer off the front of the rim, Wyoming’s Adams scored the first 3 points of the second half, off a layup plus free throw due to a foul on Rogers. That was the third foul on Rogers, and he would pick up his fourth with 18:03 left and would consequently be benched for nearly 15 and a half minutes.
San Jose State went back up 11 after a Clarke layup put San Jose State up 37-26. However, Wyoming pulled within 37-30 after Alexander Aka Gorski completed a four-point play due to a late foul call against Schwartz on Aka Gorski’s three-pointer. Clarke again scored to extend San Jose State’s lead, but Wyoming responded with yet another three to inch within 39-33.
As the two teams continued to exchange baskets, Wyoming shrunk the deficit to three after McManamen poked the ball away from Hillsman, then Washington hit a layup over Hillsman. Welage had an answer with a catch-and-shoot three following a foul to put San Jose State up 47-41 with 9:11 remaining.
Still, the Spartans struggled to make the stops and scores needed to lead beyond 7 points. After an Onwas layup and and-1 put San Jose State up 52-45, Wyoming scored six unanswered points and threatened to take a lead for the first time since early in the first half. Four of these points were from free throws, and the crowd became loudly angry as the whistles seemed to blow on every Wyoming possession. Williams came to the rescue and hit a 16-foot jumper while drawing contact. He missed the and-1 free throw, so Wyoming could still tie with a three.
Herndon again put Wyoming to within 54-53 after scoring a layup. However, Wyoming could not score after two San Jose State turnovers, one of which was an offensive foul by Onwas and another a busted lob pass to Williams. Clarke stepped up with two major defensive plays to prevent Wyoming from taking a lead, first blocking a layup by Aka Gorski then stealing a loose ball from Adams. Williams hit a reverse layup off the fast break to put San Jose State up 56-53.
Still, Wyoming stayed alive and within 56-55, with Adams zooming past Rogers and Clarke to make a layup. Clarke, after being fouled, missed the front of a one-and-one and gave Wyoming another opportunity to take a lead. Adams mishandled the ball yet again, and Welage got a steal. Williams scored two free throws to put San Jose State up 58-55 with 1:27 remaining, after being fouled by Washington, who attempted to draw an offensive foul by flopping.
By now, Wyoming had no more answers. Adams blew two opportunities to tie the game, first by having a pass intercepted by Isaac Thornton, then missing a corner three that appeared partially blocked by Clarke. Williams scored four free throws in the final 15 seconds to put the game away; he scored the final 10 for San Jose State.
“It was a real team effort on the defensive end,” commented Williams after the game. “It wasn’t just one person...It took every player to help slow [Adams] down.”
“It came down to making timely shots, it came down to making big stops defensively, and then we had to make our free throws,” remarked San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik after the game on the keys to the victory.
Wojcik also defended the officiating, in a game where San Jose State was called for 25 personal fouls to Wyoming’s 18.
“I thought it was a very well-officiated game...That was a big-time crew tonight. Those guys have done a lot of Final Fours and national championship games. I’m just proud of our guys. They didn’t let that distract them or get to them.”