The Spartans (3-7) fell short 78-73 to the Cardinals (6-4) in a wire-to-wire battle in front of 2,821 at Maples Pavilion Tuesday night. The game remained close until the last few possessions.
“Tonight was another indication of how we’ve been battling all year, except for the Indiana State game.” said Spartan head coach Jean Prioleau. “We have resilient kids, who play hard & play tough, but for about three or four minutes late in the game, we turned the ball over that led to easy buckets and we couldn’t finish our defensive possessions late in the game. But I thought our guys competed and we were right there to win a game.”
In the first half, a very active Spartan defense and strong inside game led by 6’10” power forward Michael Steadman kept the Cardinals at bay for most of the first half. Steadman earned his fourth double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds and remains in the top five in the Mountain West in rebounds and blocks.
San Jose was up by as many as nine points and forced a five minute Cardinal scoring drought until an ill Daejon Davis entered the game for Stanford. Davis’ 14 points and +17 differential got the Cardinals on track.
The Spartans also held the lead the entire first half until Cardinal KZ Okpala hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put Stanford up 34-33 at the half. Okpala led all scorers with 25 points.
Balanced scoring kept the Spartans in it. Craig Lecesne, Oumar Barry, Noah Baumann and junior guard Brae Ivey contributed 16, 15, 11 and 11 points, respectively. Ivey continues to be the team spark plug forcing three steals and dishing a team-high five assists. The Cardinals countered by finally pressing and doubling Ivey later in the first half and into the second half.
“Brae’s done a lot for us.” said Prioleau. “We’re going to live and die with Brae. He competes every single day. He’s a great kid and a great leader.”
The entertainment factor rose in the second half after the Cardinals finally found its rhythm defensively and offensively. True to form, the Cardinal stayed alive and pulled away by hitting its three’s until Davis hit Stanford’s last three pointer with about five minutes left.
Up to that point, Stanford’s Oscar Da Silva was the hottest shooter in the building going six-for-six on three’s and eight-for-eight overall, until he went cold later in the half. Da Silva finished with 23 points.
Stanford pulled out to a seven point lead with 5:41 left until both teams got sloppy with turnovers. The Spartans had 16 overall and the Cardinals 14, but four San Jose turnovers in the last five minutes and losing two key defensive rebounds sealed the loss for the Spartans.
“We came into the game knowing we were going to give up three’s. We were basically trying to “pack-the-paint” to not let them get easier high percentage shots in the paint.” said Prioleau. “Now, they did make a lot of three’s and DaSilva made a lot of three’s but they missed all their three’s late in the game. So, it worked in our favor. The problem was we could not get the rebounds off the misses late in the game.”
This Friday, San Jose State faces its second Pac-12 team visiting the Cal Bears (4-5) at Haas Pavilion.