San Jose State (4-3) was favored by 6.5 over the University of North Dakota (3-6) and the Spartans excelled beyond expectations Friday night in a 76-51 over the Fighting Hawks.
An ‘eh’ first half
After a hot and cold and hot again first half, the Spartans held just a 27-26 lead. Even after a 16-0 run, the Spartans stalled allowing the Hawks to get back in the game at half.
In that first half, freshman guard Alvaro Cardenas came out aggressive but didn’t have much to show for it for the offense. But Cardenas found more of his groove in the second half; finishing the game with 10 points.
Close up misses at the rim for the Spartans also led to the first half stall out until a last two minute Spartan flurry kept the one-point halftime lead.
Second half of movement and better handling
“I thought we did a better job adjusting in the second half and it really started in the first three defensive possessions where we got critical stops and that led into good offense,” said Miles.
Keyed on a three guard approach with Omari Moore, Trey Smith and Alvaro Cardenas on the floor together, the Spartans were much more active defensively with quicker ball movement all around.
“It was just a gut feeling coming out of halftime and when it comes to substitutions, I defer to ball handling,” said Miles. “The ability to pass, shoot, drive, create for others is something I felt we didn’t have in the first half”.
Miles continued, “You could see the rhythm of everything in that first possession with the rhythm corner three, those three stops and scoring in each of the first three possessions and that forced them into the timeout.”
“It’s just one of those things. You try to read the room and figure out what’s needed,” said Miles on the three guard approach used to control the second half.
It was personal
It’s been since the 1970s since the Spartans have played North or South Dakota teams. 40 years later in Miles inaugural season, San Jose State has swept the Dakotas in convincing fashion.
After beating South Dakota Tuesday night by nine, the 25-point win over North Dakota was the Dakota capper. Leading by as much as 28, a 25-6 second half run left the game well in hand with five minutes left.
It was enough of a margin for the likes of freshman guard MJ Amey to get in and score his first major college points. Amey had five points, including a three.
The Trey’s were the leading Spartan scorers. Guard Trey Smith and forward Trey Anderson each scored 17. The Spartans shot 47.6% from the field while holding North Dakota to only 26.3%.
“For me, there’s no change in my routine. I just continue to put in the work outside of practice and practice with the right mindset and make practices as game-like as I can,” said Smith on the flow of his game.
Anderson also shared, “I feel like I need to be a core player for this team to be successful. Coach Miles does put pressure on me, but I don’t think of it like pressure. I think of it like I have to do whatever I have to win.”
As for Miles - “I told our guys it was personal for me.”
“I’ve always like competing with guys I know and respect like Paul Sather from University of North Dakota,” said Miles. “UND was a formal bitter rival when I was the North Dakota State coach.”