Before the basketball pre-season and the real season, you have scrimmage and exhibition games to start the ramp up for the new year.
In this case for first-year Spartan basketball head coach Tim Miles, it’s also the time to iron out any kinks from being out of coaching for two years.
“I just had to remember a couple of the rules like when I can call timeout, because a couple of the rules have changed,” said Miles. “Tony Padilla, a veteran ref who’s been to a lot of NCAA tournaments was joking with me, because I was trying to call a timeout he said ‘Hey, you got to brush up on the rules, coach!’”
Win one of game one of season one for the Tim Miles’ era
The Spartans quietly travelled to beautiful Santa Barbara, CA to scrimmage the UC Santa Barbara basketball team last month and certainly got their reps in vs. a good division one team.
On this Friday evening with over 1,300 in attendance at the San Jose State Event Center, the Spartans completed their first official compulsory game beating Cal State East Bay 60-56, a division two team.
“I appreciate Cal State East Bay and the way they play,” said Miles. “They’re a really well-coached team and they’re really gritty and tough. They hardly had a season last year, so they’ve been waiting and just practicing. I thought they did an excellent job and we knew they were going to be a difficult team with a good physical defense and I was really curious to see how we were going to react. I think we saw we weren’t very good for a while, but that was because of them. That’s what well-coached teams are going to do to you, but we found a way to get things going with some different line ups.”
The Spartans’ cold shooting to start the game led to a 9-point deficit halfway into the first period. The Spartans finally picked up the pace closing out to a 26-25 half-time lead.
Spartan guard Omari Moore led all scorers with 23 points.
“It’s been a minute since we played, but overall, I feel decent,” said Moore. “But for me and the team overall, we still have a ways to go. It’s just our first game but we’ll get there.”
Moore’s smooth play and natural athleticism was the certain spark and glue that kept the Spartans at arm’s length throughout the game.
“I think we still have a long way to go as far as getting comfortable with each other too,” said Moore when asked about the team’s start and of some expectation for the season. “We definitely want to surprise some people and we’re going to win some games and we want to shock some people.”
The length, depth and speed of the Spartans in the second half
The Cal State East Bay Pioneers were clearly a team who had cohesiveness and gusto and probably pent-up energy from no real season last year. After the Spartans used their length, depth and speed, they were able to keep the Pioneers at bay in the second half.
“As we look at what we try and do, we certainly are going to try and be a well-prepared team and tonight, it was kind of funny, because one thing we haven’t done is some of the way we handle ball screen offense,” said Miles. “It’s something we’ve only practiced a little bit, because it’s not something we do and tonight was our most reps and it really took as a long time to get aggressive and get going downhill and find out how we were going to play. I think you saw that when we were able to finally open up a lead in the second half, but it took a while.”
Spartan guard Alvaro Cardenas Torre belied his freshman status comfortably attacking and scoring 11 points (Torre was this writer’s MW freshman-of-the-year choice). Spartan center Ibirhima Diallo dropped in six points and was a force in the middle finding two thunderous dunks. Diallo’s presence helped enable 26 points in the paint altogether for the Spartans.
Though Moore and Torre would lead the push to a 10-point lead, the Spartans shooting 33% (19% from three) with 13 turnovers made things harder than needed.
Miles took the exhibition game in stride
“In terms of what’s fun, the game feels a little slower actually after being out for two years,” said Miles. “ I think we can predict early even from our practices that this was going to be closer than we prefer but it’s a good experience to go through.”
The new ride begins for the Spartans as they continue through November with bigger competitive games against Stanford and Texas (5th ranked in the nation) coming up.
Conference play starts December 29th.