“What a fun night and what a dramatic occasion,” said a water-soaked Tim Miles after his 400th career win put San Jose State at 1-0. The Spartans were six point underdogs to Cal State Fullerton.
Miles could not be sure what to expect as Cal Fullerton ratcheted up their play after being down 16 and eventually tying the game 76-76 with two and a half minutes left.
Apropos of that, senior guard Trey Smith’s offensive rebound and put back from 10 feet out sealed the 78-76 win with no time left. Smith and forward Shon Robinson each had a game-high 14 points.
“Nothing better than to defend your home court and get the win and it felt good to get coaches’ 400th win,” said Smith. “It’s a big accomplishment and I’m glad to be part of it and glad our team was able to share a piece of that with him.”
The typical hot and cold of it
The Spartans started the game hot and kept the Titans at bay with good active team play and much more three-point production than their exhibition game last week. The Spartans shot 50% from the arc (14-28) and 46% overall from the field.
In the second half, the Titans pressed with physical inside play eventually eating away the Spartans’ lead. Cal Fullerton’s 38 points in the paint showed a potential weakness considering strong inside play the week before could disrupt the leaner Spartans.
“We tried to go 1-3-1 to alleviate that, but they attacked it pretty well and made some outside shots and some tough shots,” said Miles on the Titans big men inside. “But at the same time, you have to be able to switch defenses, get those guys off balance and get them off the attack.”
Miles added, “A lot of times they went screen and roll to get the ball down low and we could’ve done better on our screen and roll and change up our coverages. We’ll get that in, but right now, we’re just trying to get the basic stuff and execute it on a regular basis.”
Down the stretch
As the game tightened and the Spartans struggled with their shots late in the game, a variety of players who were making shots started missing, as with the hot and cold flow of any game at any level.
“From player 1 to player 17 on this team, we all trust and believe in each other, and it could be anyone out on the court,” said Smith when asked if the team has or needs a go-to player. “We have faith in each other to make the shot or make the play. It’s not really who’s going to get the ball. It’s about who’s going to see the play and make the play and you just want to help your teammates out and do your part.”
“I need to get better at diversifying what we’re doing late in the game, but at the same time, we’re all learning together,” said Miles on the late game pressure up to the final game-winning shot. “We got the first good shot from Trey Anderson. That was a good look. He was making corner 3s earlier in the night. And then for Trey Smith to come in there and make that play in the end was pretty cool.”
The 1,521 in attendance at the San Jose State Event Center got a good exciting and emotional workout just as well from an early season game.
“Stay in the moment. If you scoreboard watch, you can get real disappointed when you’re behind and you can get real scared when you’re ahead and that lead is shrinking,” said Miles on dealing with the scoring fluctuations for the players. “You don’t want to be caught up in that outcome and what the score is. You want to play, stay in the moment and play to the point where you just run out of time.”
Miles interjected again, “Just stay in the moment and don’t get caught up like when it’s dead ball shooting free throws and thinking ‘Ok we need a hoop here to keep the lead.’ You start negotiating with yourself. It’s human nature and you really have to resist that temptation.”
For folks in Sparta, the temptation is to anticipate something new and better this season.