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San Jose State basketball: Spartans surprise Northern Colorado

Moore’s statement game ends with a full exclamation mark 

NCAA Basketball: San Jose State at Stanford photo by: Stan Szeto

In typical tale of two halves fashion, the Spartans (2-3) turned a tepid first half into a dogfight of a second half where late game heroics earned a 75-74 win over the favored Northern Colorado Bears (3-4).

Leading the way with 28 points to lead all scorers was junior guard and scholar-athlete Omari Moore. Moore’s last two emphatic points with four seconds left no doubt who the best player on the floor was on this evening.

“On that last one, I saw the guard open up his hips and turn his head a little bit, so a straight-line drive to the basket was wide open,” said Moore describing his winning slam and drawing the foul.

On being physical

After a 0-3 road trip of close losses and a blowout loss to #8 Texas, the Spartans’ cardiac kids impression left a home crowd of 1,257 in awe of the outcome from a strong Big Sky conference opponent.

“The one thing you can’t prepare for is the pace of an opponent and the Bears run their offense with great pace, quick timing, quick passes, hard cuts and they make counters off that,” said head coach Tim Miles.”They get you on your heels and they had us on our heels for a long time. I went with two different zones and they shredded our zones.”

Miles added, “That just goes to tell you that it doesn’t matter what you run defensively. If you’re not guarding the ball, you’re not ready, you’re not being the aggressor - it doesn’t matter, they’re going to score on you easily and that happened for a long time tonight. And then the last 15 minutes, we finally start settling in and getting use to their pace.”

First half struggles

In the first half, the Spartans struggled defensively; giving up second-chance points, missing block outs and miscommunications on switches and ally oops dunks by the Bears.

“Those splits in the first half: 0-2 from the foul line, 0-2 in our only two transitions in the first half – that is not playing with force,” said Miles. “That is the complete opposite of who and what we want to be. When I say we want to play with force, I mean speed and pace at the rim - because once you can play that way, it opens up everything else.”

Moore drew the attention of the Bears and Moore capitalized throughout the game with seemingly effortless but effective drives that rewarded him with open 3s.

“It’s just getting a feel for the game and letting things come to me and not trying to force it and then getting into a rhythm,” said Moore when asked on his approach and feel for each game. “For most basketball players when they get into a rhythm, it’s hard to stop.”

If there was one nit-picky to point out on Moore’s game was his poor free throw shooting.

“It’s easy to get tired out there, but that’s no excuse,” said Moore on transitioning to the free throw line after high energy drives. “Free throws as a whole are something me and the whole team have to do better on and today, I was not good at the free throw line at all.”

Second half dogfight

A big spark in the second half was the play of freshman guard Alvaro Cardenas.

“I didn’t think Al was good early, but I told myself we got to keep running him out there, because he does have something about him,” said Miles. “He’s got a presence and confidence about himself.“

“It was funny because Al had a turnover late in the game on a lob and he comes to the bench and before I could say anything, he says ‘Coach, it was there.’ continued Miles. “My point is his confidence level is really high. His dad was a former coach and a teacher, so Al’s been taught his whole life. So, he knows what to do. He’s got a tremendous mind for the game.”

For Miles as well, his transparency and knowledge share of the game also continues to be insightful for the Spartan fans and home crowd win or lose.