San Diego State visited the Event Center on Sunday for a nationally televised contest and swept the season series with San Jose State with a 78-56 victory. With a close score at halftime but second-half dominance by San Diego State, this game was in a nearly identical fashion with the Jan. 6 game in San Diego that the Aztecs won 77-62 over the Spartans.
Cody Schwartz led San Jose State with 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. Brandon Clarke and Princeton Onwas each scored 11 points. Clarke led the team with eight rebounds, while Onwas had two rebounds. Ryan Welage had 10 points and two rebounds. For San Diego State, Malik Pope and Winston Shepard both scored 17 points, with Pope grabbing 11 rebounds and Shepard pulling down seven rebounds. Trey Kell had 15 points and three rebounds, and Jeremy Hemsley had 13 points and three rebounds.
San Diego State had a modest, 33-29 lead at halftime after leading by as much as 25-11 with 7:55 left. Following a timeout, San Jose State went on a 16-6 run over the next six minutes. After a Clarke layup and Schwartz three, Isaac Thornton stole a loose ball and dished an assist to Schwartz for another three, to put San Jose State within 25-19. After threes by Schwartz and Welage, Brandon Clarke drew a foul as he scored on a layup. The score remained 28-27 after he missed the ensuing free throw, just one of several missed chances for San Jose State to tie or lead.
With San Diego State leading 32-29 following a Hemsley layup and Onwas miss, Clarke blocked a layup by Kell with three seconds left, only for backup center Ivo Basor to foul Kell on a putback attempt with 0.4 seconds left. Kell made one of two free throws.
Despite an early travelling violation by Welage, San Jose State still kept close in the second half. After Kell drew an offensive foul with San Diego State leading 36-31, San Jose State scored five unanswered points to tie the game at 36 with 15:58 left in regulation. Frank Rogers sped past the defense of Kell and leaped for the tying dunk that electrified the 3,300-strong crowd. That dunk was one of just two field goals that Rogers made this game, following a 14-point, 17-rebound performance on Wednesday’s 61-55 home loss to Nevada.
However, the San Diego State fans in the audience began making their presence louder and with good reason: five minutes later, a 36-36 tie became a 57-40 San Diego State lead. Tougher backcourt defense led to multiple turnovers on San Jose State inbound passes and quick San Diego State scores that sparked loud cheers from the visiting team’s fans.
The loud booing from the visitors’ fans resulting from three consecutive foul calls on San Diego State during one San Jose State possession seemed to have motivated San Diego State. After those three foul calls, Clarke hit a jumper to put San Jose State within 43-40 with 13:47 left. On the ensuing possession, Hemsley hit a layup with an and-1 free throw, with Welage being called for the foul. Dakarai Allen then busted an inbounds play by Onwas and made an assist to Shepard for a dunk that put San Diego State up 48-40. The score would go to 50-40 after Basor was called for goaltending on a Shepard layup.
Things did not improve for San Jose State after the under-12:00 media timeout. Another busted inbounds play by San Jose State led to a quick dunk by Pope. Allen then mugged Clarke for a steal that led to a Kell three-pointer that put San Diego State up 57-40. After making just 40% of field goal attempts in the first half, San Diego State made nearly 57% of field goal attempts in the second half, while San Jose State regressed from a 38% to 33% field goal percentage between halves.
“[San Diego State] turned it up on us afterwards, and they were trapping us more after that,” explained Clarke regarding San Diego State’s adjustments following the Rogers dunk.
“It’s why they’re the best team in the league,” remarked San Jose State head coach Dave Wojcik. “They increased the pressure in the second half and put it on us.”
“We lost our poise...our edge, [and] our aggressiveness,” added Wojcik. “When they made that run, it paralyzed us, and we couldn’t recover from that.”
Wojcik also acknowledged that the team needs improvement with ball handling.
“We need to do a better job at the guards position [and] taking care of the basketball,” said Wojcik.
San Diego State had 21 free throw attempts to San Jose State’s 15. Wojcik credited physical play for San Diego State drawing more fouls.
“The most aggressive team usually wins, and the most aggressive team is going to get those calls,” commented Wojcik. “They were driving it; they were more physical on offense than we were.”
With this win, San Diego State improves to 20-7 (13-1 Mountain West) and clinches the regular season Mountain West Conference title. San Jose State falls to 8-19 (3-12 MW) and will next play on Feb. 27 at Utah State.