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Spartan Basketball: Playing with Wolves

The Spartans would need to do everything right to stay close

NCAA Basketball: San Jose State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Spartans played the Wolf Pack in San Jose about a month ago, the Spartans played great defense in the first half and kept things too close for comfort for the Wolf Pack until the Wolf Pack ratcheted up their aggressiveness and pulled away in the last few minutes of that game.

This time, in their second meeting on the Wolf Pack’s home floor, the tone and energy of the game was quite different. It was a relatively easier 80-67 win for the 20th ranked Nevada Wolf Pack.

The Wolf Pack basically pulled ahead and stayed ahead on three-bombs starting off in the first five minutes, ran very quick offensive sets and were collectively more aggressive, where the Spartans aren’t built to keep that type of pace.

First Half Summary:

After Nevada‘s three-fest in the first five minutes put the Wolf Pack up 17-9, Spartan Coach Prioleau called timeout to regroup. In that first five minute time span, Nevada’s shots were almost exclusively three-pointers; going 5 of 8 where only one shot was within the perimeter.

The next five minutes saw a more active Spartan bunch trying to counter, but overall, they just couldn’t match the Wolf Pack’s offensive weapons.

Spartans, Ryan Welage and Jalen James were providing some punch, but the Wolf Pack’s re-counter was most always there to neutralize any ground the Spartans made.

Welage, James and Oumar Barry had 10, 6 and 6 points, respectively, for the half and the Spartans never got closer than 9 points with the half-time score ending at 42-29.

Second Half Summary:

Nevada continued with their three-pointers and Spartan, Ryan Welage, became the only real three-point counter punch, though Jalen James contributed three three’s for 10 points in the game. Welage ended the night with 22 points.

About mid-way through the half, the Wolf Pack began to throttle back, until the last few minutes of the game where they really slowed their pace before letting the reserves step in.

The Spartans continued to be aggressive where they could. Keith Fisher & Oumar Barry tried to defend the paint vigorously; highlighted by a couple of blocked dunk attempts by each of them during the game.

Nevada’s 80-67 win was San Jose’s 15th straight loss in Mountain West play.

In the end, Nevada was too strong and too athletic and were able to keep them at “arms-length” almost the entire game.

Turnovers are still the Spartan’s Achilles heel, though the turnover rate and points on turnovers were relatively even with both teams in this game. Scoring droughts are also a conundrum.

The Spartans head back home to face the Aztecs on Saturday, February 24th, where they’ll also recognize Ryan Welage’s accomplishments before the game and hopefully, he’ll rise up again on the all-time Spartan scoring leader board on the same night.