By Ryan Vermont:
Coming back from behind by double-digits to pull out a victory definitely isn’t something to complain about, but it’s not something that should become customary.
In last Saturday’s matchup with Mountain West Conference bottom-feeder Air Force Academy, San Jose State came back from as many as 13 points to win 83-78 in overtime. A win is a win, but no team wants to play with the little fire SJSU displayed with just four games left before the conference tournament.
Brandon Clarke was back to form, recording 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Isaac Thornton and Brandon Mitchell each had career-high performances scoring 17 and 12 respectively. The two upperclassmen both had key three-point plays igniting the team to a comeback.
Tonight, the Spartans (14-11, 7-7 MW) have their one and only regular season matchup with Utah State (11-15, 5-10 MW), a team slotted two places below in the conference standings. SJSU has won four of its last five while USU is trending down, having lost four of its last five.
But the head to head matchup has been dominated by Utah State. The Aggies have lost once the last 11 years and enter the Event Center winning 18 straight against the Spartans. In a series that dates back to 1935, Utah State holds the all-time advantage between the teams at 57-21.
USU is a team which relies heavily on their two playmakers– Jalen Moore and Koby McEwen — who are the only players on the team to start all 26 games this year.
Moore is a 6’9 senior forward, but is versatile and is involved all over the court. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding per game (16.4 & 5.5), while tallying the third most assists so far this year (68).
The freshman point guard McEwen is legitimate prospect out of Toronto, who played his high-school ball at nearby Wasatch Academy a few hours from the Utah State campus. He leads the team in assists (78), is second in scoring (14.4 ppg) and is third on the team in rebounding (5.0 rpg)
In last season’s matchups between the teams, the Spartans lost by 9 at home and by 18 in Logan.
While SJSU is having one of its best years in more than a decade, Utah State is having a down one. Last season the Aggies finished eighth in the conference with a 16-15 record and in 2015 went 18-13, good for fifth in the Mountain West.
With a win this evening, the Spartans would earn their 15th win, a feat that has only been done three times in the last 23 years. A win would also be the most conference wins since 1995-96, a season SJSU made the NCAA Tournament for the only time in program history.
The game is set to tip-off at 7:00 p.m.