It was the first overtime game of the season for the Spartans (3-16, 0-7 MW) and the second overtime game for Air Force (9-11, 4-4 MW). In the crushing, but close 73-71 loss for SJSU, the Spartans nearly overcame the weaknesses that have been plaguing them all year.
“We played as hard as we could. We came up short. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make some free throws and again, we turned it over, but we almost won a game with all of those turnovers.” said Spartan head coach Jean Prioleau. “This has been a long process we’ve been talking about for a long time and it’s coming to fruition in incremental stages.”
Best SJS first-half of the season
The Spartans started the game fast with an 8-0 run and played clean; not committing a turnover until late in the first-half. San Jose’s 12 first-half assists, 7 offensive rebounds and an active defense kept Air Force at bay the entire first-half. Behind forward Michael Steadman’s 12 first-half points and guard Noah Baumann’s 9 first-half points, the Spartans had pulled out to a 15-point lead. Steadman had a game-high 24-points and 12 rebounds to Baumann’s 12-points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
“What you saw today, and those 8 minutes at Wyoming, is what we are trying to do and as crazy as it sounds, if we don’t turn the ball over and if we don’t give up layups, you will see what you saw in the beginning of this game, which is a team that can score and get stops; even if we’re missing some shots.” said Prioleau.
The last four-minutes of the first-half saw the Spartans commit four turnovers that trended into the second-half and 19 total turnovers for the game. With Air Force’s cold first-half shooting, the Falcons opened the second-half with an 11-0 run that brought them out of the deep freeze, until finally, a back-and-forth battle ensued.
The Spartans only made nine shots in the second-half after the Falcons found their footing; leading to a frantic last two-minute exchange ending with a Steadman 3-pointer with 42 seconds left and a Bray Ivey 3-pointer with a tenth of second to tie the game at 56 at the end of regulation. Ivey had 18-points coming off the bench and also tied the game at the end of the first OT.
“Brae has the heart of a lion.” said Prioleau. “We’re going to live and die with him, because he does so much for our team. He had a turnover spree going about 2 or 3 games ago and I told him as good as you are and as much as we need you, if you’re playing like that where you’re turning it over 4-5 times in a game, I’m going to take you out, because I have to do that. And he responded, by coming off the bench and playing with heart and grit to take big shots and he did that.”
Air Force shot 29-85 (34%) overall and 11-47 (23.4%) from three’s. Not known as a 3-point shooting team, Air Force continued to hoist three’s in a tight game until Falcon guard Chris Joyce hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the second OT to take the 73-71 win.
Joyce had 9-points coming off the bench. Falcon forwards Lavell Scottie and Ryan Swan and guards A.J. Walker and Caleb Morris all reached double-digit scoring to help grind out the win with 14, 12, 14, 12 points, respectively.
“The team we just lost to just beat UNLV, a team at the top of our league and destroyed them and we had Air Force beat.” said Prioleau. “Their coach came up to me twice after the game and said, ‘You guys should have won this game.’ ”