SJS Hoops Improving Under Nessman's Guidance.

The rebuilding of the SJS basketball team continues under the watchfull eye of Coach George Nessman. The Spartans have pulled out close calls this season in beating Fresno State 64-61 and battling at Idaho 68-65 last week. That victory over the Vandals pulled SJSU out of a last-place tie with Idaho, and now Nessman will try to take the Spartans to the next level and prepare for the WAC tournament.

San Jose State is used to close games not going its way.

But the Spartans have also pulled out a couple of close calls this season in WAC play, beating Fresno State 64-61 and triumphing at Idaho 68-65 last week. That victory over the Vandals pulled SJSU out of a last-place tie with Idaho.

San Jose State is 3-19 overall and 2-8 in the WAC.

"(The Spartans) have been similar to last year's team," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "They have lost a lot of close games. All of our games with them have been close. I think they are getting better. Their record certainly is deceptive, because they play the toughest schedule in the WAC."

SJSU's nonconference schedule included games at Stanford, Arizona State, BYU and Duke.

In conference, the Spartans have lost four games by seven points or less. They fell 66-57 at Utah State on Feb. 3, collapsing late in the game with four turnovers in the final four minutes, getting off just two shots.

Bothered by an ankle injury, F Tim Pierce has had a big drop in production. He missed the first three WAC games and scored a combined 19 points in the five games that he did play.

He's looking better now.

Pierce, a sophomore transfer from Arizona State, scored 20 points against Idaho on Feb. 1, hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers. He followed up with 13 points against Utah State on Feb. 3.

"The coaches told me to get my confidence back, play through any pain and that it was time to get back in the mix. They let me know that they had confidence in me," Pierce said.

--SJSU had its best shooting night of the season against Idaho on Feb. 3, hitting 50 percent (26 of 52).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was pleased with our tenacity tonight. This is, obviously, one of the tougher venues to play in (the WAC). We certainly didn't fold. It was a great game and it just went their way." -- SJSU coach George Nessman, whose team faltered down the stretch of a 66-57 loss at Utah State on Feb. 3.

As in recent seasons, San Jose State has often juggled its lineup to find the right combinations. Ten players have at least four starts this season.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Carlton Spencer, SG Jamon Hill, G Kevin Buggs, F Lance Holloway, C Menelik Barbary. Key Subs -- F Tim Pierce, G Julian Richardson, F Kerry Wooldridge, G Darion Goins, PF Harry Brown, F Devonte Thomas.

GAME REVIEW: New Mexico State 85, San Jose State 78

San Jose State 68, Idaho 65

Utah State 66, San Jose State 57

GAME PREVIEW: vs. Louisiana Tech, Thursday, Feb. 8

vs. Boise State, Saturday, Feb. 10

at Nevada, Wednesday, Feb. 14

KEYS: F Tim Pierce, averaging 9.5 points per game, saw increased playing time last week as he recovers from an ankle injury. That's a very positive development. He came off the bench in both games, playing a combined 40 minutes. With the 6-7 Pierce at the power forward position, it makes it harder for teams to focus on C Menelik Barbary in the post because they have to guard Pierce at the 3-point line, opening up the lane.


-- G Julian Richardson has been valuable off the bench, with a 26-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio in his past nine games. He's a jack-of-all-trades who rarely looks for his own shot.

--C Menelik Barbary is 15th in the WAC in scoring (12.5) and 10th in rebounding 6.4).

--G Carlton Spencer had a season-low five points in a win at Idaho on Feb. 1. It was considered a positive for the team that he could have an off night when the Spartans still won.

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