Idaho (11-9 overall, 4-2 WAC) has won four of their last five. The Spartans (7-14 overall, 0-6 WAC) have lost five of their last six with the only win coming last Saturday over Cal State Bakersfield, and now head to Utah State on Saturday.
While Utah State is struggling this year, they have been tough to beat at home. The Aggies broke a two-game losing streak on Thursday with a 77-72 home win over Hawaii. Utah State has only lost twice at home this year.
San Jose State's Keith Shamburger will have to sit out Saturday after getting ejected late in Thursday's loss. That might be a good thing for everyone involved. The sophomore has been playing with a sore rib and has made just 1 of 16 shots in the last two games.
The Spartans are a young team and finishing games this season has been a problem. They had chances to win against USF, Weber State., Fresno State., UC Riverside and now Idaho after closing to within two points late in the game. That's five losses in games they had chances at the end.
Rebounding also has been a problem for the Spartans, who were outrebounded 34 to 26 on Thursday.
It's hard to win when you can't shoot straight.
The Spartans, which lost their first five conference games by an average of 13.2 points, has been struggling to find the range -- not only in the WAC but all season.
San Jose State entered the week last in the conference in field goal percentage, making just 38.4 percent in all games and 36.9 percent in league games.
There doesn't appear to be any easy answers. The Spartans rely on their outside shooting about as much as any team in the WAC, and that shooting touch is going to run hot and cold. SJSU doesn't have a complement up front to Wil Carter.
In fact, San Jose State has turned in the majority of the worst shooting performances in the WAC this season, including:
--20.0 percent at Cal
--24.4 percent vs. Cal Poly
--27.6 percent vs. UC Irvine
--28.5 percent at Cal Poly
--29.6 percent at Santa Clara
One of those shots that didn't fall was Keith Shamburger's short jumper in the lane with five seconds against Louisiana Tech on Jan. 21. That would have tied the game, but it was off the mark and the Bulldogs grabbed the rebound. Tech made two late free throws for a 71-67 victory.
"We missed shots in the lane, and missed shots on the break a couple of times that really could have altered the outcome of the game," coach George Nessman said.
"The biggest thing for our guys is to not get discouraged. It's tough. We've lost five in a row. It's really tough. It's very painful to be a part of it. At the same time, we have to keep our heads up and turn around and keep pursuing victories."
--Coach George Nessman had high praise for Weber State's Damian Lillard, who led Division I in scoring with 25.1 points per game through Jan. 19. Lillard poured in 41 points in a double-overtime win over the Spartans in December. "He's the classic problem," Nessman said in USA Today. "He can shoot the ball from deep on the perimeter, and he can attack you off the dribble. When you have a player who can do both of those things equally well, it becomes problematic."
--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.
BY THE NUMBERS: 79.0 -- Points allowed per game by San Jose State through five conference games, which was the worst mark in the WAC.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are still making a few mental errors under duress that we can't have." -- Coach George Nessman, after the 71-67 loss to Louisiana Tech on Jan. 21.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Utah State, Jan. 28
KEY MATCHUPS: Utah State doesn't have the size and skill in the frontcourt that it usually has, so the Spartans might not get overwhelmed on the glass as has often happened this season. The focus turns to the backcourt, where San Jose State will have to control athletic PG Brockeith Pane, who does a good job of getting into the lane and making something happen.
TRENDING: The Spartans put together two outstanding back-to-back shooting halves. But they did it in two different games. The Spartans' 53.6 percent field-goal shooting in the second half of Saturday's win over CSU-Bakersfield was the first time in six games they topped 50 percent in a half. San Jose State shot 51 percent during the first half of Thursday's loss at Idaho. Unfortunately, the Spartans lost the stroke early in the second half, missing nine of their first 11 shots and all six 3-pointers and spent the rest of the game trying to rally. They finished 23 of 57 (40.4 percent).
FUTURES MARKET: Coach George Nessman was awarded a three-year contract through the 2013-14 season last summer, despite modest success. Yes, the team's 17 victories last season were their most since 1981 and the Spartans' eked out their first winning season since 1994, but SJSU was still only 5-11 in the WAC. This season, without high-scoring Adrian Oliver and veteran PG Justin Graham, the Spartans have taken a step back. Is Nessman, in his seventh season, the right man for the job? That might be the debate for a while because Nessman has some job security, at least through next season.
--G Keith Shamburger was ejected in the final minute Thursday for a flagrant foul and will have to sit out Saturday's game at Utah State. His night was finished with just seven points on 1 of 8 shooting. In Saturday's win over CSU Bakersfield, Shamburger missed all eight shots in the game including all six 3-point attempts. He had just three points in 30 minutes.
--D.J. Brown set a San Jose State freshman single-game scoring record with 33 points in Saturday's win over CSU Bakersfield. DJ spun a hot shooting hand, making 6 of 7 3-point attempts and 9 of 10 at the free throw line. His 33 points are the most scored by a conference freshman since New Mexico State's Jahmar Young scored 33 on Jan. 10, 2009. Brown led the Spartans again in scoring with 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting and 4 of 10 on 3-pointers.
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