By Casey Geier:
San Jose State entered the University of New Mexico stadium nicknamed “The Pit” winless in its program’s history. That changed tonight with the Spartans 78-68 win against the Lobos, their most momentous game this season.
The Spartans (11-10, 4-6 MW) entered the bye week fresh off of an impressive home victory against UNLV which included strong performances from their young core of players. Their success continued tonight with four underclassmen scoring in double figures against New Mexico (14-10, 7-5 MW).
SJSU guard Terrell Brown had 10 points in the first half and finished with a career high 17 points.
He did not play like a freshman with only one start on his resume, he handled the ball effectively, ending the game with zero turnovers.
“He’s got something you can’t teach,” said head coach Dave Wojcik. “He’s got unbelievable quickness and he makes great reads off the ball.”
The Spartans looked lethargic on the court early, falling behind 10-2 to start the game. After a San Jose State timeout, the Spartans locked up defensively. They held New Mexico to just four points in over five minutes after the timeout.
Welage was just 3-24 from 3 point range over his last four games, but started the game white hot going 3-4 from deep in the first half. He led the Spartans in scoring and rebounding with 20 and 8, another strong performance after his 19 points against UNLV last game.
The rest of the first half saw each team trading baskets, ending the half tied at 35 points each. Both teams shot well from the 3 point line, the Spartans going 5-10 and the Lobos going 4-9.
The Spartans defense was stout to begin the second, forcing three offensive fouls on the Lobos’s first four possessions. Jaycee Hillsman threw down a vicious driving dunk early in the second, looking like a young Derrick rose who also played high school basketball at Simeon in Chicago. Hillsman finished the game with 10 points and 6 rebounds.
The Spartans dynamic playmaker, forward Brandon Clarke was the key player for SJSU in the second half where he scored 13 of his 17 points, using his size at 6 ‘9 and his 230 lb frame to score in the interior of the Lobos defense. He used his size on the defensive end as well, totaling 4 blocks for the game.
With back to back road victories against MW opponents, the Spartans are starting the second half of the season playing at a high level.
“They believe in each other and they believe in what we’re doing and when you have belief anything can happen,” Wojcik said.
The Spartans play the San Diego State Aztecs (12-9, 4-5 MW) at home on Tuesday, where the Aztecs will be facing a much more confident Spartan team than the last time they played.