By Daniel Reedy:
Early deficits have become the downfall of the Spartans.
San Jose State (9-9, 2-5 MW) gave up 43 points in the first half and lost to the Boise State Broncos, 75-65. Just three days ago, SJSU gave up 50 points in the first half against Wyoming.
Boise State (12-6, 5-2 MW) shot the lights out in the first half (59.3 percent), made 6-7 free throws and hit 5-10 from beyond the arc.
“We have to find a way to fix those slow starts,” said forward Brandon Clarke.
Clarke put up 26 points, making his first seven shots and finishing 11/14 from the field.
Head coach Dave Wojcik described Clarke as a “great centerpiece to build around,” but also said the team is relying too heavily on Clarke, who played 37 minutes.
“We are putting way too much pressure on the kid,” Wojcik said.
Clarke also had a pair of highlight-reel dunks. One came after he stole the ball, took it all the way down the court for one-handed slam. The second was an alley-oop tossed by Isaac Thornton after a steal by Jalen James. Clarke leads the Spartans in scoring, blocks and rebounding.
But SJSU failed to block any of the Broncos’ shots and was out-rebounded for the eighth game in a row. The last time the Spartans grabbed more rebounds was Dec 18. against Bowling Green.
“We are getting beat up on the glass,” Wojcik said.
That wasn’t the only zone the Spartans got beat in as the home team made just 1-13 three-pointer shots. Forward Ryan Welage scored 14 points but was 0-6 from range and the usually sharp-shooting E.J. Boyce was 0-3.
“We had good looks, we just didn’t knock it down,” Wojcik said. “It just didn’t fall tonight.”
SJSU did step up its perimeter defense, holding the Broncos to 0-7 from three-point range in the second half.
The Spartans were able to trim the lead over the course of the second half and a late surge late in the game brought SJSU within striking distance.
Guard Jaycee Hillsman scored points on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to seven, but the Spartans were too low on time and had to intentionally foul, allowing the Broncos to close out the game.
One of the main problems for the Spartans’ offense has been the lack of scoring outside of Clarke, but in addition to Welage’s 14, Hillsman came off the bench and also scored 14 points.
“I did what I could to try and ignite a fire under our team,” Hillsman said.
Hillsman was able to penetrate Boise State’s defense by driving to the hoop and drawing fouls.
Despite early struggles, strong defense down the stretch kept the Spartans in the game. The Broncos scored just one time in the final 12 minutes on a breakaway that forward David Wacker dunked. Wacker led Boise State with 17 points.
The Broncos leading scorer coming into the game, Chandler Hutchison scored 15 points.
With the defeat, SJSU has now lost back-to-back games three times this season.
The Spartans are back on the road, heading to Fort Collins to play Colorado State (11-8, 3-3 in conference) at 6 p.m.