By Casey Geier:
After the Spartans four-game winning streak was ended by Fresno State earlier this week, San Jose State bounced back with a come-from-behind win against Air Force, 83-78.
The Falcons (10-17, MW 3-11) started the game playing a 2-3 matchup zone, clogging the middle and daring San Jose State (14-11, MW 7-7) to take perimeter shots. The Spartans carried their shooting woes against Fresno State into this game, shooting 40 percent from the field in the first half and 0-12 from three-point range. They were more successful against the zone when they passed the ball inside to Brandon Clarke, who led the Spartans with 14 points in the first half.
“Offensively we were just settling for threes, and when we would get it inside to BC [Clarke] we just stood around and watched him,” said head coach Dave Wojcik. “One of the adjustments we wanted to make in the second half was to get cutters to the basket.”
Clarke finished the game with a team-high 22 points and 13 rebounds to go along with a season-high 6 assists.
SJSU struggled to guard Air Force in the halfcourt during the first half, allowing the Falcons to shoot over 60 percent as a team.
The Spartans stuck around with the Falcons for most of the first half despite their shoddy play, but Air Force took a 41-28 lead into halftime on a 16-6 run to close the half.
The Spartans found their range to start the second half with a three by Jalen James and two more from Cody Schwartz. Schwartz made another three in transition but it was waived off after a questionable traveling call.
A steal and fast break dunk by Isaac Thornton with 16:10 remaining cut the Air Force lead to four and brought the San Jose crowd to a thunderous roar. The senior guard finished the game with a season-high 17 points and went 8-8 from the free throw line.
“It was a hard fought win tonight,” said Thornton. “You have to credit Air Force, they came out hitting us in the mouth and they played really well. But we were able to get some things together at halftime and come back battling to get the win.”
The Spartans remained in striking distance throughout the second half as an 8-0 run meshed by threes from Thornton and Jaycee Hillsman and a driving layup by Clarke brought the home team within four with 5:32 on the clock.
Another big three-pointer from Schwartz followed by a three-point play by Brandon Mitchell gave the Spartans a 70-68 lead with 3:18 to go.
The Falcons answered quickly but neither team scored for the remainder of the half and the game went into overtime tied at 70.
San Jose fell behind by four to start the extra frame but responded with a three-pointer by Mitchell and then a fast break slam by Clarke off a Thornton steal to put the Spartans back up by one.
Forward Ryan Manning missed a jump shot on Air Force’s next possession and with under a minute remaining, Clarke grabbed an offensive rebound to give the Spartans another possession, forcing the Falcons to foul intentionally.
Four clutch free throws a piece by Thornton and Hillsman kept the Spartans ahead and secured an overtime victory against the Falcons.
For Thornton, this game sits high on his list of most-liked games. “My favorite game was still beating San Diego State at home, but this was definitely one of my favorite games,” Thornton said.
The Spartans will have the chance to have a winning record in conference play when they matchup against Utah State on Wednesday at 7 P.M.