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Spartans hang tough against Cal Bears but lose

Turnovers continue to sink San Jose State

SJS guard Brae Ivey (2) drives against Cal Bear, Paris Austin (3) at Haas Pavilion, December 21, 2018.
SJS guard Brae Ivey (2) drives against Cal Bear, Paris Austin (3) at Haas Pavilion, December 21, 2018.
Vic Aquino

San Jose State dropped to 3-8 after an 88-80 loss against UC Berkeley (5-6) at Haas Pavilion Friday night.

It was a game marred by sloppy play and turnovers, but surprisingly, the Spartans were in it until the last two minutes of the game, as they were against Stanford earlier in the week.

“Our guys competed tonight and I think it’s the best we shot in a long time.” said Spartan head coach Jean Prioleau. “There were a lot of positives and some negatives. The negatives being we’re turning the ball over at the wrong time. Live ball turnovers are really bad for us. They turned to easy buckets the other way.”

It was an unmemorable first half by both teams. With 10 first half turnovers and only eight shots half-way into the first half, the Spartans were just not executing. Prioleau’s three guard set in the first eight minutes probably didn’t help with missed rebounds, missed shots and bad passes early on. Switching to a bigger lineup found the Spartans leading at the end of the first half 32-30. Spartan center Oumar Barry had 10 points in the half; ending with a career-high 18-point night before fouling out.

“The game wasn’t moving very fast.” said Prioleau. “It was a methodical game and I think a large part of that is because we played zone and it slows teams down and takes them out of rhythm. And we are a half court team by nature with three out, two in. So that’s going to slow the game down and it played into our favor.”

The second half started like the first half for the Spartans, but this time the Bears’ athleticism kicked in; led by Cal’s Darius McNeill’s five 3-pointers, who led all scorers with 22 points. Cal had seven three’s overall in the second half.

Not to be outmatched, Spartan’s Noah Baumann started trading three’s and ended with 18 points for the game. Spartan Michael Steadman also notched his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

The Bears pulled out to a 15-point lead and though the Spartans only had five turnovers in the second half, Cal exploited it for 10 points, whereas Cal only managed four points off the Spartans 10 turnovers in the first half.

In the last three minutes, San Jose’s 9-0 run whittled Cal’s lead down to six with two minutes left. The Spartans got as close as four points before Cal held on with free-throws off Spartan intentional fouls.

“We’re learning as we go. I’m learning the rotation of our players.” said Prioleau. “We shortened our bench. And because of that, we’re playing really well offensively. So what you have to look at is the turnovers, because if we can shoot 55% for the game, 50% for three’s and almost 80% from the free throw line and we turned it over 15 times, that means 15 times we didn’t get to shoot the ball. Our achilles heel right now is turning the ball over.”

The Spartans are now 0-2 on its Bay Area tour, which ends with a visit to St. Mary’s next Saturday before Mountain West conference play starts at the beginning of the new year.