Spartans open with WAC champ Nevada in opener

The Spartans were two games worse than seventh-place Fresno State and drew top-seeded Nevada in the quarterfinals of the league tournament, which begins Thursday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Not only is there a big gap in talent between the teams, but it's even more of an unfavorable matchup for the Spartans because of Nevada's superior inside game with Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt.



But the Spartans do have something positive to take into the matchup. San Jose State stayed close to the visiting Wolf Pack (25-5, 13-1) on Feb. 11 before losing 76-70. SJSU battled back from a 13-point second-half deficit to tie the game, and the Spartans trailed by only three points with about three minutes to go.

Czyz helped Nevada turn back the threat as he scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half.

"We had a chance at the finish," SJSU guard James Kinney said after the game. "We just couldn't get over the hump."

That's often been the story of the season for the Spartans, who lost their regular-season finale, 70-64 at home to Idaho. The Vandals made 16 of 22 free throws in the final four minutes.

"We've been in this spot so many times when we've had a chance," coach George Nessman said.

NOTES, QUOTES

Carter among four seniors honored

--San Jose State honored four players on Senior Night on March 3 -- F Wil Carter, F Garrett Ton, C Matt Ballard and G Calvin Douglas. Carter has been the most productive of that quarter, averaging 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in the regular season while being the Spartans' only reliable offensive threat in the post. "He likes to go over his left shoulder, very athletic, very vertical," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said of Carter. "He can make a face-up jumper, but not really his strength."

--San Jose State has lost 20 of its past 21 games against Nevada, which swept this year's regular-season meetings.

--It's hard to win when you rely on the outside shot as much as San Jose State and then you don't defend the interior very well either. The result is that the Spartans rank last in the WAC in field goal percentage (39.7) and last in field goal percentage defense (45.1).

BY THE NUMBERS: 74.9 -- San Jose State's free throw percentage, which led the WAC in the regular season. The Spartans' primary guards all shoot very well from the line, led by James Kinney, who was at 84.7 percent (61 of 72) in the regular season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've done a lot of things right. We're not playing badly, but we're not playing well enough to win. The gap between those two is not very big. It's a couple of mental errors, a couple of missed assignments, and we have been plagued with that in many games this year." -- San Jose State coach George Nessman

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Nevada, WAC Tournament quarterfinals, March 8

KEY MATCHUPS: This is just a tough matchup for the Spartans, who have to find a way to check Nevada post players Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt despite being the worst rebounding team in the WAC and being able to count on only Wil Carter down low. Czyz and Hunt each had a double-double when the teams last met on Feb. 11. San Jose State's hope is to hit some outside shots and keep the turnovers to a minimum; the Spartans turned the ball over only nine times in two games against the Pack this season. G James Kinney combined for 42 points in those two meetings.

FUTURES MARKET: San Jose State, in need of big men for next season, has offered a scholarship to Daddy Ugbede, a 6-foot-7 forward from Gardena (Calif.) Serra High School. Ugbede recently helped Serra win the Southern Section Division 4AA championship game over La Verne Lutheran High. Ugbede helped get Arizona-bound Grant Jerrett (a McDonald's All-American and arguably the best player in the state) into foul trouble, and Ugbede took advantage by scoring 32 points.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior F Wil Carter finished the regular season with a double-double -- 12 points and 12 rebounds vs. Idaho. He enters the WAC tournament having averaged 17.0 points in his past six games. He also had double-digit rebounds in each of his past three games.

--Junior G James Kinney has been the Spartans' top 3-point threat, making 86 of 210 attempts (41.0 percent) in the regular season. Guards Keith Shamburger, D.J. Brown and Calvin Douglas also launch plenty of shots from behind the arc, although none made better than 33.3 percent in the regular season.



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