By Daniel Reedy:
Slam dunks and contributions from several players generated a huge victory for the host Spartans.
San Jose State (12-10, 5-6 in MW) won for the third game in a row, defeating the San Diego Aztecs 76-71.
“We made the plays down the stretch that we needed to make,” said head coach Dave Wojcik. “Not just offensively, but defensively.”
Per usual, forward Brandon Clarke led the Spartans, putting up 22 points, his second 20-plus performance against the Aztecs this season (13-10, 5-6 in MW). His highlight-reel slams electrified the crowd.
“Dunks are always cool because they get the crowd super hyped and the team starts playing better afterward,” Clarke said.
In his third consecutive start, freshman guard Terrell Brown posted 13 points, using his speed to get through the lane.
“I just pushed the ball, get to the basket, use my athleticism and just make plays,” Brown said.
But it was his fadeaway three-pointer just before the shot clock expired that was the shot of the night. Wojcik called the three “a hell of a shot.”
It was a team victory as four Spartans finished in double figures.
“It’s a team [game],” Clarke said. “It’s cool to see other guys finally getting more shots and more points.”
In addition to Clarke and Brown, forwards Ryan Welage and Brandon Mitchell had 10 points each.
Mitchell came off the bench and made his presence known with multiple dunks and capped the the night with a throwdown in the last minute to seal the victory.
Welage managed double digits for the sixth time in his last seven games, but struggled mightily from beyond the arc, missing all five shots.
However, Welage picked up three assists, made each of his four free throws and showed his endurance, playing 36 minutes. Only Brown played more (39).
San Jose State nearly ended with six players in double digits, as guards Jaycee Hillsman and Isaac Thornton finished with eight and nine points respectively.
“We’re sharing the ball,” Wojcik said. “[The Spartans] really don’t care who scores. That’s the good thing about this team, the chemistry.”
Hillsman hit two three-pointers, each one extending Spartan leads to double digits. He had only connected on three shots behind the arc all season up to that point.
Freshman guard Isaiah Nichols only scored two points but those were a critical pair of free throws for the Spartans who had been shutout for the previous four minutes to start the game.
The largest crowd of the season turned out for the rivalry game . Although plenty of Aztec fans showed up, they were drowned out by a rowdy San Jose State audience.
Many of the fans rushed the court after the game, mobbing the victorious Spartans as they surrounded Hillsman who dribbled out the final seconds.
With the win, the Spartans avenged their defeat in the previous contest when they lost to the Aztecs 76-61.
SJSU is now tied for sixth in the MW standings with SDSU and Wyoming.
SDSU also spread the ball, with four Aztecs finished with double-digits.
The Aztecs played well inside, blocking seven shots and out-rebounding the Spartans 40-33.
SJSU will look to continue the winning streak on Feb. 11 against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels.