For the fourth time this season, San Jose State rallied from a double-digit halftime deficit and won. In a men’s basketball matchup Saturday at the Event Center, the Spartans won 83-78 in overtime over the visiting Air Force Falcons. This win came after a 77-59 loss on Wednesday at rival Fresno State snapped a four-game winning streak.
Four San Jose State players scored in double figures, with Brandon Clarke leading the group with 22 points and adding 13 rebounds and six assists. Isaac Thornton matched his career high of 17 points, all scored after the first half. Brandon Mitchell had 12 points, and Ryan Welage had 10 points.
“Credit Air Force,” said Thornton. “They came out hitting us in the mouth, and they played really well.”
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Ryan Manning led Air Force with 23 points. Jacob Van had 12 points, and Lavelle Scottie had 11 points. Hayden Graham, who entered as Air Force’s leading scorer at an average 12.6 points per game, scored only seven. Frank Toohey, the second leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, had eight.
San Jose State scored first off a Welage jumper, but a Zach Kocur go-ahead layup marked the beginning of Air Force’s first half dominance. As San Jose State committed 11 turnovers and missed all 12 three-point attempts in the first half, Air Force shot an efficient 17 for 28.
“We were giving them open shots,” said San Jose State head coach Dave Wojcik.
Driving inside helped San Jose State score, whether with field goals or free throws, and contain Air Force to a single-digit lead. However, turnovers prevented San Jose State from shrinking deficits. Trailing 20-16 and coming off an Air Force foul, San Jose State had two empty possessions thanks to an Isaiah Nichols bad inbounds pass and Thornton losing the ball in the paint. Off the Thornton turnover, Kocur hit a three to put Air Force up 23-16. Ultimately, Air Force had a 41-28 lead at the half, with 12 points coming off turnovers.
Fate moved in San Jose State’s direction in the second half, as Toohey lost the ball in the first possession. Pulling San Jose State within nine, Cody Schwartz and Jalen James made the first three-pointers of the game. Minutes later, the score became 47-43 thanks to a Clarke jumper and Thornton steal and breakaway dunk.
“One of the adjustments we wanted to make in the second half was [to] get cutters going into the basket,” explained Wojcik.
Air Force, following a timeout, regained a double digit lead with nearly eight minutes remaining, as San Jose State had seven missed shots and three turnovers since the timeout. Two minutes later, San Jose State pulled within 63-59, thanks to threes from Thornton and Jaycee Hillsman and a Clarke jumper. With 3:18 to go, Mitchell hit a layup while fouled (pictured) for a 69-68 lead, the first since since 2-0.
Clarke rebounded a missed three from Graham, but Trevor Lyons got a steal and the tying layup in transition with 2:33 to go. Neither team scored for the rest of regulation. Although Air Force had seven team fouls, San Jose State opted for five jump shots, including three from beyond the arc.
“No, we weren’t supposed to settle for [threes],” said Wojcik about the shot selection in the last few minutes of regulation and first few minutes of overtime.
Air Force had a 74-70 lead into nearly half of overtime, as San Jose State missed four three-point attempts. Fortunes changed in San Jose State’s favor in nearly 45 seconds, as Mitchell drained a three with 2:07 left, and Thornton got a steal and assist to Clarke on a dunk with 1:24.
With nearly 30 seconds to go, Clarke hustled to the corner to save a missed Thornton three from going out of bounds and scooped the ball to Schwartz. As the shot clock had now been turned off, Air Force had no choice but to foul. Hillsman and Thornton combined to go six-for-six from the free throw line. With Air Force down 77-74 and 22.2 seconds remaining, Graham travelled and gave away an opportunity for a game-tying three.
At 14-11 (7-7 Mountain West), San Jose State is back to a .500 record in conference play and is in seventh place, in a tight competition with in-state rivals San Diego State (7-6) and Fresno State (8-7) for fifth place and a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Air Force drops to 3-11 in conference play and remains in last place.
- The recorded attendance was 2,254, the third consecutive recorded home attendance of 2,000 or more.
- This was San Jose State’s first overtime game of the season.
- Having won three consecutive meetings, San Jose State now leads the all-time series against Air Force 6-5. The streak began on Jan. 30, 2016, when San Jose State won 75-54 in San Jose. On Jan. 14 this year, San Jose State beat Air Force 89-85 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Following San Jose State women's basketball beating Fresno State 77-69 in overtime on Wednesday night, Saturday's men's game marked the second consecutive overtime game at the Event Center.
- San Jose State women's basketball head coach Jamie Craighead got her 100th career win on Saturday, with San Jose State's 83-67 win over Air Force in Colorado Springs.
- Air Force last won a conference road game on Jan. 28, 2015, 66-52 over a San Jose State team that finished 2-28 (0-18 MW) in Wojcik’s second season. This marks Air Force’s 20th consecutive conference road loss.