Game #8: San José State (4-3) at University of Montana (2-6)
When: Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 7:00 p.m. (MT)
Where: Dahlberg Arena (7,322) Missoula, Montana
Series History: The Spartans and Grizzlies are all even, 6-6, in the all-time series which dates back to the 1948-49 season. The Spartans are 2-3 on the road against Montana. San José State has won the previous two meetings including last year's 64-61 victory inside The Event Center. The victory was significant as it ended a 21-game losing streak dating back to the previous season.
Keys for a Spartan Victory
Continued Strength of Play on Defensive Side of the Ball
San José State has held opponents during the win streak to 33.3 percent shooting (54-162) and 25.4 percent from 3-point range. F Ryan Welage (6-9, So.) and F Brandon Clarke (6-8, So.) grabbed a team-leading 7.7 rebounds per game, helping the Spartans outrebound all three opponents. San José State owns the Mountain West's best turnover margin at +2.9. While averaging 12.6 turnovers per game, the Spartans are forcing a league-leading 15.4 turnovers per game on their opponents. The team's 7.3 steals per game is second among the 11-team conference.
Taking Care of the Basketball
The Spartans dropped the first contest of the three-game trip to Saint Mary's, currently ranked 12th in the country, 81-64. Despite the loss, San José State hung with the Gaels through 30 minutes of the game, which had 11 lead changes and was tied six times. San José State found some mojo against one of the country's best teams and used it to begin a three-game winning streak. San José State averaged 14.3 second-chance points per game on the recent road trip, while the opponents averaged 7.0. The Spartan bench outscored the opponents 71-44, including a 32-10 advantage in the win over Washington State. Behind G Jaycee Hillsman (6-6, So.) 22 attempts, SJSU averaged 19.3 free throw tries per game - making 77.6 percent (45-58). Finally, San José State had a season-low eight turnovers at Washington State and finished the trip averaging just 9.0 turnovers per game.
Ryan Welage and Brandon Clarke: Enough Said
F Ryan Welage (6-9, So.) has led the team in scoring the passed three games, averaging 15.7 points. He extended his season-high in points with 17 at Saint Mary's and then extended it again with 20 at Washington State. He pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds for a double-double in the win over the Cougars. Welage averaged 17.3 points and 8.0 rebounds on the trip, but his best stat was just one turnover in 94 minutes played.
F Brandon Clarke (6-8, So.) blocked four shots in the final 5:35 of the win at Idaho. All four times a Vandals player challenged him with a layup or dunk at the rim, they were denied. Clarke finished the game with a SJSU single-game record-tying six blocks. Clarke owns three individual single-game highs so far this year in the Mountain West:
- 12 field goals made vs. Portland, 11/15
- 26 field goals attempted vs. Portland, 11/15
- 6 blocks by at Idaho, 11/29
Before San José State went on the road and beat Washington State, the Cougars defeated Montana 87-63 in Pullman, Wash., on Nov. 19. Likewise, when the Spartans faced a similar opponent in the Cougars, they displayed a very balanced offensive performance with five players in double-figure scoring. There were six lead changes in the game and they were all within the first 10 minutes of the opening period. From there, it was all San José State and the victory, 88-76.
The Spartans are playing some inspired basketball right now under the tutelage of Coach Wojcik. I believe the Spartans carry on their strength of play and cover the -11 points and continue holding their opponents under 50 points. Spartans win, 61-46.