By Kavin Mistry:
For a team picked to finish dead last in the conference this season, San Jose State has proven its worth sitting in fourth place heading into Mountain West Conference play.
“I think we can compete with anybody,” said sophomore forward Ryan Welage following the final non-conference game. “Every night we are going to be battling and every team is going to be tough … But I am confident in our team’s ability to go into any environment.”
However, the rise of the Spartans will be put to the test today when the team heads to Nevada to face the top team in the conference.
The Wolfpack have won six straight and are a perfect 5-0 at home this season. On the flipside, the Spartans are 2-2 on the road this season.
The key players for Nevada are senior Marcus Marshall and sophomore Cameron Oliver. Marshall is the team’s top scorer, averaging 20.7 points and has hit 49 three’s this season. Meanwhile Oliver has provided a young spark, averaging 15.7 points and seven rebounds per game at the forward position.
The Spartans counter with stout defense and timely offense which has carried them through the second halves of games this season. Sophomores Brandon Clarke and Ryan Welage have been the driving force of the offense, each averaging around 15 points per game.
This season, SJSU has relied on standout performances game-by-game to support Clarke and Welage. In Wednesday’s final non-conference game, senior guard Jalen James provided the necessary offense to bring home the win despite Clarke having an off shooting night.
“Coach always preaches to us to keep chomping at the wood and keep playing hard,” James said. “If we make a mistake we have the mindset to keep playing hard.”
There is plenty of room for the Spartans to grow despite an already much improved record from a season ago and facing a team like the Wolfpack will be the perfect test to begin conference play.
“We are a good shooting team,” head coach Dave Wojcik said following the final non-conference game. “We just have to keep passing the ball to find those open shooters.”
It will be important for the Spartans to establish themselves early tonight on the road. Wojcik said this season has played more relaxed when they get their game going first and keep the opponents on its heels.
The Spartans tip-off the conference season tonight in Reno, Nevada against the Wolfpack at 7 p.m.