Young Spartans showing signs of progress

Special to Inside Sparta
Posted Feb 21, 2012


The Spartans were 9-17 overall and 1-9 WAC through Feb. 18, after a 79-67 victory at Sacramento State in the BracketBusters event. Before that, San Jose State nearly knocked off league-leading Nevada before losing 76-70, defeated Fresno State for its only conference victory and lost to Hawaii by two points in overtime.

Coach George Nessman said there's no sense hiding from what the record says -- "if you smile around that, it's a mistake," he said -- but added that there's more going on than wins and losses.

"There's a second piece to that that says, 'Are we progressing, are we getting better?'" Nessman said.

"And, yeah, the litmus test is obvious. ... There is no doubt our guys believe they can beat any team in our league."

The Spartans are young -- starting two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior college transfer and a senior -- and have room to grow. They have been much more competitive in the second round of conference play, including that win over Fresno State.

"To get one in the book was good for our guys' morale," Nessman said.

"It also had a kind of a bittersweet element to it because, gosh, so many times we were close but didn't get over the top. We really believe we could have been doing better than what we're doing. But I think the big balance is that there's no question our team is moving forward, no question our team is progressing.

"I think that has to be the main thing."

NOTES, QUOTES

Spartans use big second half to get past Sacramento State

--F Wil Carter and G James Kinney each had 19 points to lead San Jose State to a 79-67 victory at Sacramento State in the BracketBusters event. The Spartans made a staggering 68.2 percent of their shots in the second half (15 of 22) to overcome a six-point halftime deficit.
--Despite not having played since Dec. 13, 2003, San Jose State and Sacramento State were familiar with each other because the teams have scrimmaged in recent seasons. The Spartans now lead the all-time series 19-2 and will get a chance to host Sac State next season.
--San Jose State made 8 of 18 3-point shots at Sacramento State (44.4 percent), which marked the 10th time this season that the Spartans made at least 40 percent in a game. They are 6-4 in those games and rank second in the WAC in 3-point attempts with 26.8 per game through Feb. 18.

BY THE NUMBERS: Minus 4.4 -- That's San Jose State's rebounding margin, which ranked last in the WAC through Feb. 18.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's another step for us. We're on the road, down 12 and we find a way to claw out and win going away. It validates some of the progress we've been making over the last two to three weeks." -- Coach George Nessman, after winning at Sacramento State on Feb. 18.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Louisiana Tech, Feb. 23

KEY MATCHUPS: It's a good matchup for San Jose State, at least in terms of size, as the Bulldogs often go with a four-guard look. These are the two worst shooting teams in the WAC, if only because they rely so much on the 3-point shot (Tech and SJSU take more shots from behind the arc than anybody else in the WAC). It could be a simple matter of who makes more treys in this matchup. Tech won the first meeting 71-67.

--at New Mexico State, Feb. 25

KEY MATCHUPS: NMSU handled San Jose State with ease in the first meeting, out-rebounding the Spartans by 12 and winning 79-63. SJSU, giving up size and ability in the paint, will have to gear its defense toward stopping PF Wendell McKines while hoping that NMSU's 3-point game doesn't get hot. This road game is likely to tall a mountain for SJSU to climb.

FUTURES MARKET: San Jose State has recruiting interest in 6-foot-8 forward T.J. Cline of Plano West High School in Plano, Texas, according to Rivals.com. Cline is something of a late bloomer, sprouting during his high school years and not reaching the varsity until his senior season, averaging about 16 points and eight rebounds according to a recent story. He has basketball genes, for sure, as the son of Tim Cline and Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. His parents met while each were playing for the Washington Generals, the constant foil of the Harlem Globetrotters.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior G James Kinney led the WAC in free throw shooting through games of Feb. 18, having made 61 of 71 attempts (85.9 percent). He was barely ahead of Fresno State's Jonathan Wills, who was at 85.85 percent.
--PG Keith Shamburger scored all 15 of his points after halftime in the win over Sacramento State on Feb. 18. He also had eight assists to help fuel a second-half rally.





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