By Sandeep Chandok:
LAS VEGAS — A Mountain West record and a plane ticket home were the only takeaways from Wednesday’s game for San Jose State.
It wasn’t a good record, however — sorry if I got your hopes up. The Spartans allowed 59 second-half points to Utah State on Wednesday — the most points allowed in a half by any team in Mountain West Tournament history.
“When you give up 59 points, you don’t deserve to beat anybody,” said head coach Dave Wojcik.
SJSU only scored 64 points in the entire game, by the way, and Utah State finished with 90.
For a team that was fairly efficient on defense all season, allowing 90 points was ridiculous.
Brandon Mitchell gave his team a superb spark off the bench in the first half with five points, including a three-pointer, four rebounds and a block.
As for Brandon Clarke, SJSU’s leading scorer who received Mountain West first-team honors, the Aggies held him in check granting just eight points to the sophomore forward. Although he did record 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
What was shocking about Clarke’s statline were the four shot attempts in 20 minutes. Clarke logged 36 minutes but all four shots were put up in the first half. Just four shots, are you kidding me? Not a single glimpse of the basket in the second half?
Wojcik obviously noticed Clarke wasn’t getting enough looks and stressed to his team at halftime the importance of feeding the Mountain West’s fourth leading scorer
“[Clarke] needs to touch the ball every time,” Wojcik said. “We’re not going to win if he’s not shooting 12, 15 shots for us.”
On the other hand, Wojcik acknowledged Clarke should have been more selfish and shot the ball more often.
Something the Spartans will have to work on moving forward is ball movement. There were countless possessions in the second half when SJSU passed the ball back-and-forth across the perimeter — and occasionally to the mid-post — but was unable to get a clean shot.
“We needed to do a better job of executing offensively,” said senior guard Isaac Thornton. “We were trying to do some things and we just had breakdowns that you can’t have against a good team like Utah State.”
Had the Spartans done a better job executing offensively, they would have shot better than their atrocious 35-percent mark.
Sophomore forward Ryan Welage’s 5-13 effort wasn’t bad, but it included misses on a handful of wide-open shots. Welage finished with 14 points.
Despite the blowout loss, there is an essential to carry home from the game: This team is young and only getting better.
The experience gained from this one postseason game and throughout the season is paramount to the Spartans’ basketball program moving forward.
I mean, the five starters from yesterday’s game are all underclassmen. What a luxury for SJSU and Wojcik.
“They’ll be better for it going forward into their careers,” Wojcik said of his young guys. “I’m proud of them to be where we were — we had a heck of a season.”