After a weekend tune-up game where San Jose State (7-6, 0-1 MW) walloped Bethesda, the Spartans faced conference peers Fresno State (11-4, 1-1 MW) Tuesday night.
The Spartans first Mountain West face-off of the season didn’t fare well with a 79–59 loss.
But the “buts” are why we’re here looking forward.
After a far less than stellar three-point shooting night, the Spartans had to force the issue by attacking the basket, which meant all of SJS’ points were hard fought.
The Bulldog’s 7-foot thoroughbred, Orlando Robinson, provided the big boy play that the Spartans simply could not match up to.
Without better physical paint presence, the Spartans had no real chance against NBA prospect Robinson’s 31 points and 12 rebounds. Teammate Anthony Holland also contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Robinson’s differential is at an astonishing +114 for Fresno State so far this season.
Basically, the Spartans will continue to suffer against athletic big men without an Ibrahima Diallo manning the middle. It’s been noted Diallo is nursing an MCL knee injury after missing several weeks of play so far.
Sophomore forward Trey Anderson was the only consistent Spartan force showing his continued brand of aggressiveness this season.
Anderson finished with 18 points, 4-7 from three and five rebounds. Anderson’s defensive play was also the closest resistance to fend off Robinson.
Expect Anderson’s former SEC experience carryover and his play so far this year to continue its natural progression.
First half striking distance
Realizing they had to attack the basket after going 2-10 beyond the arc early, the Spartans kept things as close as it would be the entire game. At half time, the Spartans trailed by 11 (39-28).
Turnover-wise, the Spartans held it together with only four in the first half. By game’s end, it was still respectable with nine (all in all, turnovers in the past have been a historic thorn in the side).
Offensively, the Spartans still struggled to score in the paint. Attacking guards Omari Moore, Trey Smith and Alvaro Cardenas often found themselves stymied by the Bulldog defense inside.
Fresno had an emphasis on Moore, as Moore started slow ending with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.
The best example of Fresno’s size and power differential occurred with four minutes in the half. Three consecutive offensive rebounds and a second chance short jumper by Robinson in the paint and a foul exemplified the night for the Spartans.
Second half struggles widen
Without a better shooting night and unable to sustain enough of a defensive stance, the Bulldogs pulled out to a 20-point lead to close the game.
A last glimmer - a 9-0 run with five and a half minutes left to play pulled things down to a manageable 12 points, but after a Fresno timeout, the Bulldogs pressed back and had the game in hand with a few minutes left and the final 79-59 win.
Head coach Tim Miles remains confident with continued Mountain West competition, the Spartans will find their legs for the season.
As the season so far can be considered an early success, Miles’ team will be a work in progress in season one. That’s still the expectation.
As Mountain West play across the board looks good for the conference, the Spartans basketball dynamics are also the best it’s been for years at San Jose State.
Colorado State comes to town this Saturday, where the Spartans face another formidable NBA prospect big man. Will the Spartans have a better answer?