SJSU's James Kinney is player to watch
When you lose one of the nation's top scorers in shooting guard Adrian Oliver and a veteran point guard such as Justin Graham -- that's 38 points per game right there -- it's not surprising that a program such as San Jose State is having trouble reloading.
A lack of scoring and a woeful shooting percentage were two notable problems from San Jose State's first 10 games, and there were no easy answers as the Spartans prepare for the Jan. 7 conference opener at Hawaii.
--SJSU scored just 36 points in a stunning 45-point loss at Cal on Dec. 7. The Spartans shot 20 percent from the field (12 of 60). .
--SJSU scored only 40 points in a home loss to Cal Poly on Dec. 10, making a scant 24.4 percent of its shots (11 of 45). .
"As college players we need to be able to hit open shots," coach George Nessman said. "We need to become more confident." .
That could be a factor, but there seems to be more to it than that, as the Spartans were last in the WAC in shooting percentage through Dec. 11, making only 36.7 percent. Everybody else was above 40 percent. .
SJSU, which was 3-7 through 10 games, doesn't usually play the kind of shut-down defense that can compensate for bad shooting nights. .
Last season, San Jose State was hoping for a major breakthrough but finished a disappointing 5-11 in the WAC, although they were second in the league in scoring and advanced to the College Basketball Invitational, losing in the first round to end the season at 17-16. .
That was actually the team's best record since 1981 ... but it the Spartans are taking a step back this season. .
--One of the positive developments on the offensive end has been San Jose State's free throw percentage, which ranked first in the WAC through Dec. 11, as the Spartans were making 75.9 percent. Guards James Kinney and Keith Shamburger were leading the way, having combined to make 77 of 95 attempts through that date. .
--Former SJSU guard Adrian Oliver, who played last summer in Greece after completing his eligibility, signed with the Sacramento Kings as a free agent and was trying to make the team out of training camp. .
--SJSU likely will struggle against some of the bigger teams in the WAC, considering it had a minus-6.2 rebounding margin through 10 games. PF Wil Carter was the only Spartan who was doing anything of note on the offensive glass. .
PLAYER TO WATCH: G James Kinney -- The junior college transfer, who began his career at Ohio, posted a trio of consecutive big-time scoring games: 24 vs. Montana State, 30 against UTSA and 28 vs. Weber State. But he also went 0 for 12 from the field against Cal's stifling man-to-man defense. Which Kinney will it be once WAC play rolls around? "He's an electric scorer," said coach George Nessman. With PG Keith Shamburger setting him up, Kinney will be the go-to man as the season rolls along. .
KEY CONFERENCE GAME: Jan. 14 at Fresno State -- This is the end of a three-game road stretch that starts the conference season for the Spartans, and it comes two days after a tough trip to Nevada. Each team in this regional rivalry is trying to overcome low expectations this season and climb toward at least the middle of the league. .
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Calvin is a huge weapon for us because he stretches the opponent's defense. Teams can't compress their defense on us when he's in the game." -- Coach George Nessman, on G Calvin Douglas, who is a threat from long distance, although he had made only 28.8 percent of his 3-pointers (17 of 59) through the team's first 10 games. .
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL.
2010-11 CONFERENCE RECORD: 5-11, eighth place.
LINEUP BREAKDOWN: The Spartans will be led by their backcourt -- sophomore PG Keith Shamburger and SG James Kinney, who combined to average about 30 points through the team's first 10 games. F Wil Carter is a constant in the post, but coach George Nessman juggled his starting lineup around those three early in the season. Matt Ballard (6-9, 236) gives SJSU needed size up front if Nessman has to play the match-up game. Look for a couple of newcomers to get plenty of chances to contribute -- JC transfer G Lavanne Pennington and freshman wing Jaleel Williams. .
--C/F Chris Cunningham transferred to San Jose State from Santa Clara over the summer. Cunningham (6-8, 225) averaged 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds a game for Santa Clara. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits out in 2011-12. .
--G Calvin Douglas suffered an ankle injury at Cal on Dec. 7 and missed the Dec. 10 at Cal Poly. The injury was not considered serious, with Douglas perhaps not missing any more time. .
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