TSX Files: Spartans Open Conference Play

Junior college transfer guard James Kinney averaged a team-best 16.7 points through San Jose State's pre-conference schedule. Can he keep rolling through the WAC?

There aren't high expectations for the Spartans in conference play, but if Kinney keeps on scoring, then maybe SJSU has a chance. He is coming off a career-best 31-point performance as San Jose State beat host Seattle 84-74 in the title game of the Elgin Baylor Classic on Dec. 30.

"I shot the ball with more confidence," Kinney said. "I worked hard off the ball to be ready when I got the ball."

Kinney began his college career at Ohio in the 2009-10 season, averaging 9.7 points in 19 games before being dismissed from the team in mid-February. He spent last season at Eastern Utah College.

He's been a very good replacement for Adrian Oliver, who led the WAC in scoring last season at 24.0 points per game. Kinney and Keith Shamburger form a dangerous backcourt for the Spartans.

Shamburger was the MVP of the Elgin Baylor Classic, as SJSU won two games away from home, including a victory over Coppin State. That moved the Spartans to 6-8 and gave them a boost before the opening of WAC play.

"It feels good to win two games on the road," Shamburger said. "These are wins we needed before conference play."

NOTES, QUOTES

--San Jose State committed a season-high 18 turnovers against Seattle, which pressed the entire game. Although the Spartans only got off 50 shots, they managed good looks after surviving the press and knocked down half of their shots overall and from 3-point range (12 of 24). That game should serve as good practice for future meetings against New Mexico State.
--The Spartans set a school record by making 16 3-point shots against Coppin State on Dec. 29. Keith Shamburger, Calvin Douglas and D.J. Brown each made four shots from behind the arc. San Jose State also set a school record by taking 40 shots from 3-point range.
--The win at Seattle on Dec. 20 was SJSU's first road victory in seven tries this season. The Spartans had some close calls before that, losing in overtime at San Francisco and Weber State, and losing by two at UC Riverside.
BY THE NUMBERS: 74.7 -- San Jose State's free throw percentage through 14 games, which led the WAC as the league was set to begin conference play this week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "James is an elite scorer. He's going to have big games." -- Coach George Nessman on junior G James Kinney.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Hawaii, Jan. 7
KEY MATCHUPS: Hawaii has been tough at home, beating Xavier and Clemson, and losing a five-point decision to UNLV on Dec. 31. The Warriors have been led by 6-foot-6 senior guard Zane Johnson, who was averaging 15.1 points through the team's 8-6 start. Hawaii was having trouble finding a shooting complement to Johnson, though. The problem for San Jose State is it is a poor rebounding team, and Hawaii's Vander Joaquim might be able to dominate down low.

FUTURES MARKET: D.J. Brown redshirted as a freshman guard last season, when the Spartans were loaded in the backcourt with Adrian Oliver, Justin Graham and Keith Shamburger. Now, there is more room for Brown, who averaged 14.0 minutes in a reserve role through 14 games, averaging 5.8 points. He gives the Spartans another 3-point shooter whenever Shamburger or James Kinney is taking a breather.

PLAYER NOTES

--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.
--PG Keith Shamburger entered the week leading the WAC with 5.1 assists per game.
--SG James Kinney entered the week second in the WAC in free throw shooting, having made 86.4 percent (38 of 44).



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