Ryan Welage and Isaiah Nichols nailed crucial three-pointers in the final minutes as the San Jose State Spartans rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 76-72 in a men’s basketball game Saturday at the Event Center. The Spartans snapped their three-game losing streak and reached 10 wins for the first time in six years, before a large crowd that included a packed student section two days into the spring semester.
Video highlights from the SJSUAthletics YouTube channel:
Brandon Clarke had 23 points and 15 rebounds for his seventh season and thirteenth career double-double. Welage added 19 points and three rebounds. Freshman walk-on guard Terrell Brown made his first college start with 14 points and three rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes. The 14 points were his most against Division I opponents.
For UNLV, Jovan Mooring led with 17 points, a rebound, and four assists. Jalen Poyser had 13 points, four rebounds, and an assists off the bench. Uche Ofoegbu had 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
New football head coach Brent Brennan and his coaching staff made a special halftime appearance. Brennan urged attendees to come to the coming National Signing Day event on campus and, as he said in his introductory press conference, "get off the bench, and get in the game."
Brown made his presence known early. After drawing an early offensive foul on Christian Jones, Brown scored a layup to give San Jose State a 10-9 lead. Later, Brown hit a three as the shot clock expired, for a 16-12 lead.
Ofoegbu was assessed a class B technical foul for attempting a tip-in while touching the rim, and Brown hit a free throw to put San Jose State up 17-16. However, San Jose State could not capitalize on its bonus possession. Both teams exchanged buckets for a few minutes, before Kris Clyburn hit a three for a 25-21 lead.
As San Jose State struggled offensively, UNLV drained threes in the closing minutes of the first half, including a buzzer-beater by Ofoegbu that put UNLV up 36-27. UNLV gained an extra possession after Brown dribbled off his foot in the closing seconds.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, especially in the first half,” said San Jose State head coach Dave Wojcik. “[We] came out in the second half [and] did a great job.”
San Jose State shot only 33.3% in the first half but improved to nearly 57% in the second.
Taking advantage of two empty San Jose State possessions, UNLV went up 40-27 early in the second half. However, San Jose State prevented a larger deficit with mid- and close-range baskets to counter UNLV.
“We had the advantage down low, so we just kept going at them,” said Welage.
Wojcik also praised Welage for improving his shooting efficiency and expanding his shot selection.
“He did score his baskets in the post a little bit mid-range,” said Wojcik. “He’s got to understand that. Don’t just be a catch-and-shoot jump shooter from [the] three-point line.”
Nichols and Brown hit threes that pulled San Jose State within two possessions, and Clarke hit a go-ahead layup, as UNLV had what became nearly 11 minutes without a field goal. However, frequent fouls allowed UNLV to score 13 points off free throws in that period.
“We slowed them down with some pressure,” said Wojcik, who also praised San Jose State’s transition defense.
Tyrell Green hit a layup with 4:22 to tie the game at 61 for UNLV’s first field goal since the 15:25 mark. Both teams exchanged free throws, before a Welage three and Clarke layup put San Jose State up 68-63 inside two minutes. Following a UNLV three by Zion Morgan, Nichols responded with his own three to put San Jose State up 73-68 with 48 seconds left.
If not for a foul call, Brown would have made a costly mistake by hurling the ball out of bounds while trying to avoid a double team. Brown also missed the front end of the one-and-one free throws, and Jovan Mooring made a three to cut UNLV’s deficit to 73-71.
“Terrell has something that most kids don’t have, and he has a speed that you can’t teach,” said Wojcik.
“But the next thing is educating him…don’t just go in there with your hair on fire and think you’re going to get a foul or throw it to whoever,” added Wojcik.
Brown made a free throw before fouling out with eight seconds left to prevent a game-tying three. Mooring made one free throw, and Hillsman hit both free throws on the other side. Mooring missed a desperation three in the final seconds, sealing the 76-72 final score.
Improving to 10-10 (3-6 MW), San Jose State next plays this coming Saturday, Feb. 4 at New Mexico.
- Hillsman made his first start since the Dec. 28 conference opener at Nevada. He was called for two offensive fouls. Wojcik praised Hillsman’s strength and free throw shooting. Also, Wojcik said Hillsman was “trying to be aggressive…in the lane” but needed to control himself more with the charges.
- San Jose State beat UNLV for the first time since Jan. 10, 1996, a Big West Conference matchup at the Event Center.
- This was San Jose State’s first time facing Marvin Menzies since Feb. 14, 2013, when San Jose State hosted New Mexico State in a WAC matchup and lost 67-57. Menzies was head coach at New Mexico State from 2007 to 2016, before taking the job at UNLV.
- San Jose State reached 10 wins for the first time since the Jan. 29, 2011 win over Fresno State in a season that ended with a 17-16 (5-11 WAC) record and CBI appearance.
- San Jose State senior guard Gary Williams, Jr. missed his second straight game, due to an ankle injury.
- The reported attendance was 2,106, the largest since the Dec. 3 home game against Santa Clara, which had a reported attendance of 2,237. The next home game, a nationally televised matchup against San Diego State on Feb. 7, should draw a larger crowd, because the previous three home games against San Diego State had attendances of over 3,000.
- In Las Vegas on Saturday, San Jose State women's basketball beat UNLV 76-65 and improved to 7-14 (4-5 MW).