By Ryan Vermont:
It’s hard to win Div I games in the NCAA. It’s even harder to win games in-conference.
The San Jose State men’s basketball team (8-6, 1-2) picked up a much-needed win last Saturday over Fresno State (10-6, 2-2) 69-62 and secured its first Mountain West win of the season in its third attempt.
Do-it-all sophomore forward Brandon Clarke continued his consistent play, but coach Dave Wojcik acknowledged that other players had to get involved.
“We can’t just think Brandon is gonna do it for us, other guys have to step up and they did today,” Wojcik said in the postgame press conference.
Senior guard Gary Williams Jr. finished with 18 points in 19 minutes, redshirt junior Jalen James recorded 12 points/6 rebounds/4 assists and sophomore forwards Ryan Welage and Cody Schwartz knocked down big threes to open up the second half. Junior forward Brandon Mitchell was also a factor on the defensive side and made a key block down the stretch.
“After the Colorado State game, I said that Fresno was a must-win for us … I felt like if we could get this win it could get us rolling,” James said.
Next up for the Spartans is the San Diego State Aztecs (8-7, 0-3) on the road. SDSU has been at least partial champions of Mountain West’s regular season the last three years.
Compared to the past few seasons though, the Aztecs have had a shaky start so far.
At this point last season, SDSU was 12-8, 3-0 and in the 2014-2015 season it was 13-5, 2-1 by the time it was going to play its fourth conference game.
Tuesday’s matchup will be the first time SJSU the two programs will meet in Mountain West play when the Spartans have a better conference record. Nevertheless, the Aztecs have won the last six against the Spartans dating back to 1999.
Senior guard Dakarai Allen is the vocal leader and defensive stopper for SDSU, but the Spartans have to be prepared for the backcourt duo of junior Trey Kell and sophomore Jeremy Hemsley who are the top two scorers on the team averaging 16.5 and 12.7 points per game respectively.
SDSU also has an imposing, inside presence in 6-9, 220 forward Zylan Cheatham who is one rebound shy of 100 this year.
For San Jose State, the program is undeniably on the rise.
If the Spartans beat SDSU on Tuesday, it will tie the amount of wins from last year’s squad with at least 14 more games to be played.
The game will be the first of two on the road for SJSU.
The scheduled tip-off time for Tuesday’s game is 8 p.m.