San Jose State played its first home game since Dec. 20 on Thursday, returning after a 2-4 road trip. Home didn't end up being too sweet for the Spartans, who fell behind early, got in foul trouble and couldn't buy a basket from beyond the 3-point line in a 79-63 loss to New Mexico State.
The Spartans (6-12, 0-4 WAC) welcome Louisiana Tech to the Event Center on Saturday, and they hope to give the home folks something to cheer about.
The Bulldogs had been having their own problems, losing all three conference games before winning Thursday at Hawaii. Raheem Appleby, a freshman guard, leads the Bulldogs with 12.5 points per game, and he scored 28 at Honolulu.
The Spartans can't worry too much about their opponent. That's the least of their problems. Their biggest problem at the moment is shooting the ball. They made only six of 29 (20 percent) from 3-point range Thursday, and SJSU isn't going to beat anyone in the WAC shooting like that.
Expect plenty of bombs on Saturday. Louisiana Tech and San Jose State came into Thursday's games with the most 3-pointers made in the conference.
San Jose State also needs to come out of the blocks better. In a "seen this before" moment, the Spartans fell behind 7-0 early. They also got into early foul trouble and turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and trailed 41-26 at halftime.
The Spartans don't have the shooters to come back from that kind of deficit.
As for positives, the Spartans turned the ball over only once in the second half and finished the game on an 8-0 run. They need to start the game on 8-0 runs, not finish them that way when the outcome is already decided.
Defensive shortcomings prove costly
San Jose State lives by the 3-point shot, and even that isn't enough at times.
The Spartans made 11 of 19 attempts from behind the arc at Fresno State on Jan. 14, but still lost 82-73.
Even though that 3-point shooting gives San Jose State a chance, the problem moving forward is that George Nessman's team entered the week last in the WAC in defense (72.9 points per game allowed) and last in rebounding margin (minus 4.2 per game).
"There are stretches when we play well defensively," Nessman said. "Stretches won't do it. We've got to play better defense."
Check out the scores from SJSU's first three conference games: The Spartans allowed 82 points to Hawaii, 81 to Nevada and 82 to Fresno State.
The first three league foes shot 50.6 percent against San Jose State.
The schedule hasn't done San Jose State any favors, either.
The Spartans were on the road for four consecutive weeks -- from Seattle to Honolulu -- and haven't played at home since a Dec. 20 game against UC Davis.
"We're plain fatigued," Nessman said after the loss to Fresno State.
--San Jose State entered the week leading the WAC in free throw shooting at 72.8 percent, but that accuracy deserted the Spartans in a Jan. 14 loss at Fresno State. They made only 11 of 22 in the second half, which included three misses on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.
--The Spartans lack athleticism in the frontcourt and they are unable to re-direct many shots in the interior. San Jose State had a mere 26 blocked shots through 17 games, and its average of 1.5 per game was last in the WAC and among the worst marks nationally.
--San Jose State wrapped up a six-game streak away from home with a game at Fresno State on Jan. 14. That was only the second time since December 1979 that the Spartans had played six consecutive games away from home. The other time came in November 2006.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1-9 -- SJSU's record in road games, through the loss at Fresno State on Jan. 14.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They have three or four guys who can shoot the three. It's guard-oriented, guard-heavy. What makes them good is they can score off the bounce. They can score in catch-and-shoot. Their bigs set a lot of screens, so you have to be focused and conscious on those guys whether you're in man or zone." -- Nevada coach David Carter, giving a scouting report on San Jose State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Louisiana Tech, Jan. 21
KEY MATCHUPS: The Bulldogs aren't overly skilled on offense and don't have the size that can be problematic to a team like San Jose State. If SJSU post Wil Carter can stay out of foul trouble, he might be able to do some damage against a Tech team that has been struggling on defense. Carter entered the week averaging 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds.
FUTURES MARKET: Coach George Nessman changed the starting lineup for the Jan. 14 game at Fresno State, inserting a pair of freshmen -- G D.J. Brown and post Stephon Smith. "Stephon has really been rising," Nessman said. Smith could be the lift SJSU needs as a frontcourt complement to Wil Carter, because Matt Ballard wasn't providing it. Smith, after coming off bench with 14 points in a loss at Nevada on Jan. 12, had only one point vs. Fresno State, however. Brown scored 11 points in his starting debut, making 3 of 5 3-point shots.
TRENDING: The Spartans have been losing no matter how well they shoot the 3-pointer. In Thursday's loss to visiting New Mexico State, the Spartans made only six of 29 3-pointers (20 percent) and ended up losing by 16 points. It was quite a different story Jan. 14 -- but with a similar ending. San Jose State shot a season-high 57.9 percent (11 of 19) from beyond the arc but still lost to host Fresno State. The only other time the Spartans have topped 50 percent from beyond the arc was against Seattle University (12 of 24) -- a game they won by 10 points. San Jose State coach George Nessman doesn't expect his club to shoot 50 percent on 3-pointers, but 40 percent would be very nice. Had they done that Thursday, they would have at least been in the game. The Spartans have to shoot the ball well from on 3-pointers to be able to compete with the better teams in the league.
--Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it doesn't matter. San Jose State used its sixth different starting lineup of the season at Fresno State on Saturday, as F Stephon Smith and G D.J. Brown started. Smith (one point in 29 minutes) and Brown (11 points in 37 minutes) replaced Matt Ballard and Chris Jones in the lineup. Smith got into foul trouble and didn't score in only nine minutes, while Brown made only one of seven field-goal attempts and finished with six points. Eleven different players have started for the Spartans this season.
--Senior F Wil Carter has topped 13 points in three of his last four games, but the big guy needs to stay out of foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in the first half Thursday night, and coach George Nessman had no choice but to take him off the floor. Carter is a much different player when he's playing with energy and is allowed to assert himself. But when he's playing in foul trouble, he's not nearly as effective. He had a bad foul Thursday night when he bumped into New Mexico State's Wendell McKines on a sure layup. The two points wouldn't have been as costly as picking up the foul.
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