Spartans still seeking first WAC win

Opportunities to win conference games have been rare for San Jose State this season, and the Spartans let one get away against Hawaii on Feb. 4.



San Jose State, adjusting to life without Adrian Oliver and Justin Graham in the backcourt this season, fell to the Warriors 83-81 in overtime to fall to 0-8 in the WAC. The Spartans entered the week 7-16 overall; they were 17-16 last season.

"Our team is showing the character and the toughness to succeed," coach George Nessman said, "but we're not showing the composure to succeed."

San Jose State led by 14 in the second half but wilted under a Hawaii comeback, and the Spartans trailed by six points with about three minutes left. To their credit, they forced overtime but fell behind again. San Jose State had a half-court shot at the buzzer to win, but the shot was off the mark.

"Anytime you blow a lead, it's frustrating. We obviously didn't execute when we needed to," said guard James Kinney. "We've got to keep pushing."

San Jose State's lack of size and strong interior play leaks into all facets of its game. The Spartans are last in the WAC in defense, allowing conference teams to hit 50.6 percent of their shots. Alternately, SJSU can't rely on easy offense and second-chance points. The Spartans are last in the league in shooting percentage in conference games, hitting just 38.2 percent.

That's a huge gulf in shooting percentages -- and it's the main reason why things don't figure to get much better as the Spartans look for their first WAC win.

NOTES, QUOTES

Defensive woes continue for Spartans

--San Jose State enters the week ranked last in the WAC in scoring defense, allowing 73.8 points per game. That's something of a trend, as San Jose State was last in the league in scoring defense last season, and eighth out of nine teams in the 2009-10 season. "We're an improving defensive team," coach George Nessman said, "but we're not a consistently good defensive team."
--Senior F Wil Carter, a communications studies major, was one of five Division I players selected to the Capital One Academic All-District VIII first team. That is the first step to being considered for Academic All-America honors. He has a 3.40 grade-point average.

--San Jose State will play a road game in the BracketBusters event, traveling to Sacramento State on Feb. 18. That means that Sac State will be playing a game in San Jose next season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11.6 -- San Jose State's margin of defeat in its first eight conference games, all losses.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been a habit of our team that when we begin to feel pressure we play too quickly. ... Right now, it's a tough scenario when you keep coming up short, but what you have to do is keep battling." -- Coach George Nessman.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Fresno State, Feb. 9

KEY MATCHUPS: This might be San Jose State's best chance for a conference win the rest of the season, as a small Fresno State team doesn't figure to take advantage of the Spartans like the rest of the WAC can do. The teams battled to a standstill on the boards in the first meeting, as Fresno State won at home 82-73. If post player Wil Carter can stay out of foul trouble, he could have a big game.

--vs. Nevada, Feb. 11

KEY MATCHUPS: San Jose State has to hope Nevada will be travel-weary after playing at Hawaii two nights earlier. Otherwise, the Pack should dominate inside with Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz, and Nevada is just overall too big and skilled for the Spartans. The Pack, which won the first meeting 81-57, can score from all over the court and is likely to find a matchup that works against SJSU's worst-in-the-WAC defense.

FUTURES MARKET: The future of head coach George Nessman is a discussion on San Jose State message boards, although Nessman did sign a new contract last summer that takes him through the 2013-14 season. Nessman is in his seventh season at San Jose State, having posted one winning record (17-16 last season). "George Nessman took over our men's basketball program six years ago when it needed more than a cosmetic make-over," athletic director Tom Bowen said last summer when announcing the new contract. "Systematically and methodically, he has put San Jose State on a sound footing that is realizing progress and success on and off the court." Still, as the Spartans languish at the bottom of the WAC, Nessman's job will continue to be a topic.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore PG Keith Shamburger had a career-high 12 assists in the overtime loss to Hawaii on Feb. 4. He entered this week leading the WAC with 5.2 assists per game.
--Senior PF Wil Carter enjoyed playing against Hawaii this season. He had 21 points and 20 rebounds in the first meeting, and then followed with a career-high 22 points in the second meeting on Feb. 4.
--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.



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