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San José State University vs. Southern Utah preview: Spartans’ Keys to Victory

The Spartans will be led by Mountain West Men's Basketball Player of the Week, Brandon Clarke, against the Thunderbirds.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at San Jose State Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Game #11: Southern Utah University (2-10) at San José State University (6-4)

Where: San José, CA Event Center, San José State (capacity 5,000)

When: Wednesday, December 21, 2016 (7:00 PM PT)

The Spartans and Thunderbirds will meet for the first time on Wednesday night in the Event Center. The Big Sky members come into the game having lost six in a row and eight of nine. Both teams will be closing out non-conference play this week.

The Spartans hold a 6-4 record, 4-2 at home. A win over Southern Utah would give San José State a 7-4 record heading into conference play. That would be the best start since the team was 8-3 heading into WAC play in 2010-11, the last time the Spartans made it to a tourney, the College Basketball Invitational.

Keys to Spartans Victory

Contain Randy Onwuasor

Randy Onwuasor currently leads the Thunderbirds in scoring—and ranks third in the Big Sky Conference—averaging 21.5 points per game with a 38% field goal average. He also leads the team Southern Utah with 6.6 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. The Thunderbirds run their team through their guard. The Spartans will need to shut him down and force his teammates to beat the Spartans.

Get the Ball to Brandon Clarke

Brandon Clarke has been leading the Spartans in scoring and rebounding, especially at critical moments in a game. The forward hit the game-winning basket, a tip-in with 1.2 seconds remaining, to lift San José State over Bowling Green 77-76 in front of the home crowd on Sunday.

His basket gave the Spartans two wins in a row and five victories in the last six outings. He finished with game-highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He scored 20 points in the first period, including eight in a row during a stretch which helped the Spartans build a double-digit lead. Look for the Spartans to continue their unprecedented start behind Clarke’s leadership on the floor.

Spartans Continue their Stifling Defense

The Spartans have been playing a tough man-to-man coverage, forcing turnovers and quick turnaround points. Clarke leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game, especially with the final second turnaround score for the win against Bowling Green. He also has 17 blocks while averaging 1.89 blocks per game. San José State currently owns the league’s best rebounding margin over their opponents at +6.2.

The team is averaging 38.3 rebounds per game, which ranks second only to Colorado State (39.1 rpg). G Isaac Thornton leads the team and is second in the Mountain West with 18 steals and averaging 2.0 steals per game, creating a positive turnover ratio of 1.80 steals per turnover. The Thunderbirds have been lacking offensive output and the Spartans have only been allowing an average of 69.6 points per game to opponents.


The Spartans have shown a true turnaround to this season from the three previous seasons under Coach Wojcik. They are hovering around midpack in the standings and stand to break into double digit victories since 2010-2011 season.

I think this is a solid win before heading into conference play next week at Nevada. The Spartans pull out a convincing victory over the Thunderbirds, 88-66.