Thunderbirds look to slow down up-and-coming Spartans

By Daniel Reedy:

San Jose State aims to finish its non-conference slate on a high note against a two-win Southern Utah team.

This week’s Mountain West Conference Player of the Week Brandon Clarke will try to continue his dominant play tonight against the Thunderbirds out of the Big Sky Conference.

Clarke’s game-winning bucket Sunday was the highlight of the Spartans’ 77-76 win over Bowling Green, but it was his 24 points and 14 rebounds that carried the team. It was the sophomore forward’s fourth double-double of the season.

SJSU is aiming for its third three-game winning streak of the season (including exhibition games) while taking on the 2-10 SUU.

The Spartans are 6-4 in their last 10 games heading into Wednesday’s matchup against a struggling Southern Utah team that is on a six-game losing streak.

SJSU took a 15-point lead into halftime against Bowling Green, and pushed it to 18 in the second half, but allowed the Falcons to come back before Clarke’s tip-in with less than a second left put the Spartans up by one.

Despite a near collapse, Coach Dave Wojcik said the Spartans don’t need to make many adjustments.

“We’re not going to change much,” Wojcik said postgame Sunday. “Our kids know what to do.”

Junior guard Randy Onwuasor leads Southern Utah in scoring (22.4 PPG) and has averaged 28 points in the team’s last three games.

The Spartans will look to slow down Onwuasor and the Thunderbirds’ top three-point shooter James McGee. McGee shoots 39.7 percent from beyond the arc, but SJSU has its own sniper in Ryan Welage who shoots 43.5 percent from range.   

While the Spartans were predicted to finish last in the Mountain West Conference in the preseason poll, finishing with a plus .500 would slot them in with the rest of the teams in the conference and they are heavy favorites over the lowly Thunderbirds.

The Spartans said the key to the game is consistent play throughout the contest.

“We just have to keep the killer mentality the entire 40 minutes,” said senior guard Isaac Thornton.

Thornton is second on the team in assists (26) and leads the Spartans with 20 steals.

SJSU is currently pacing the Mountain West Conference with a +6.2 rebounding differential. Clarke has been the most significant contributor to that stat with 79 rebounds (34 OFF, 45 DEF) in the season.

Wednesday’s matchup will be the first ever between the Spartans and Thunderbirds and take place at 7 p.m. at the Event Center.

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