By Kavin Mistry:
It is too early to say that Saturday’s game against Air Force was a must win for San Jose State, but in the craziness that is the Mountain West, every win makes a difference. Just as being 1-4 or 2-3 in conference is night and day.
Spartans’ forward Brandon Clarke ensured the latter would occur.
The current front-runner for Mountain West player of the year dropped 34 points on 16-22 shooting and added five rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
“He’s an all-league player,” said head coach Dave Wojcik postgame. “Not much I can say, he is a hell of a player.”
The Spartans needed all of his effort Saturday to pull away with the 89-85 win against a team that was 16-3 in its past 19 home games.
“My teammates did a great job of finding me in the right places,” Clarke said postgame. “It made it easy, just catching and finishing.”
Along with Clarke, SJSU received a phenomenal, outside-shooting game from sophomores E.J. Boyce and Cody Schwartz, who finished a combined 8-11 from three and 28 total points.
The Spartans need that kind of effort to stay in games going forward. Similar to the women’s team with Dezz Ramos, the men need more than Clarke to keep winning.
Each win this season for SJSU has come when players not named Clarke take pressure off of him and knock down shots to open up his game.
SJSU led for the bulk of the game, with Air Force keeping it close until the Falcons took the lead late in the second half. But the Spartans answered every Falcon bucket with clutch shots by Clarke down the stretch.
The final two plays of the game became the difference. SJSU’s Brandon Mitchell made the block on Air Force’s Lavelle Scottie’s shot which would have tied the game at 87. Instead the Spartans grabbed the ball and Jalen James tossed a dime to Clarke, who threw down the buzzer beating slam.
SJSU got back to shooting the way it’s capable of, the Spartans knocked down 10 three’s and shot a sizzling 61 percent from the field.
The Spartans look to continue their hot shooting as they head home to face Wyoming on Wednesday night in the Event Center at 7 p.m.