By Ernesto Gonzalez
San Jose State had a difficult time translating momentum into a comeback, falling in wire-to-wire fashion.
The Spartans dug themselves into a hole early on and ended up losing 81-75 to the Utah State Aggies on Wednesday night inside the Event Center.
SJSU (14-12 7-8 MW) never led in the game, paving the way to their 19th-straight loss against Utah State (12-15 6-10 MW) in its second-to-last home game of the season.
Both teams had four players in double figures, but Utah State’s quad of players outscored the Spartans’ four.
Two freshman Aggie guards, Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill had over twenty points and were aggressive; something Spartans’ head coach Dave Wojcik said his squad lacked.
“They were driving to score, while we were driving to get fouled,” Wojcik said.
But the Spartans didn’t get fouled enough. The Aggies attempted twice as many free throws as SJSU.
McEwen got to the line 11 times, one more than the entire Spartans team. The Aggies finished the night nearly perfect from the free-throw line, making 19 of 20. Brandon Clarke had a rather pedestrian performance compared to his season scoring average, and was unable to work his way to the charity strike.
“I probably could have shot more — probably could have been more aggressive,” Clarke said.
The sophomore forward only took 10 shots, but contributed with all the dirty work, grabbing ten boards, snatching a couple steals and swatting down two shots.
A bright spot for the Spartans was their three-point shooting, draining on 12 of 21 shots (57 percent) from behind the arc, but never hitting on the right moments.
“I thought we battled back well in the second half, but we just couldn’t get it in the hole,” said forward Ryan Welage.
Welage led the Spartans with 20 points on 8-15 shooting.
Both teams shot lights out from the floor, but the Aggies did it consistently, and when it counted most. The Spartans finished the game on 46 percent shooting, compared to 55 percent for Utah State.
Nearly every time SJSU started to ignite a run — such as after a couple of steals from full-court pressure — sloppy basketball made its way back in the game, keeping them in the mud.
On one particular play with under a minute remaining, the Spartans came up with a steal, which transitioned into a three-on-two fast break. The Spartans were in the bonus, and if guard Jaycee Hillsman could have driven hard to the basket and scored or draw the foul, SJSU would have been down three. Instead, he was called for traveling, forcing the Spartans to foul and try extend the game on the defensive end of the court.
The Spartans will next travel to Idaho to face the Boise State Broncos 17-9 (10-5 MW) on Saturday, still fishing for their 15th win of the season, something the program has not done since the 2010-11 season.
Tip-off for Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m.