Going up against a long quick UNLV team (10-7, 2-2 MW) proved yet again that San Jose State (7-8, 0-3 MW) has a ways to go to reach par in the conference.
In the Spartans’ 81-56 loss, the Rebels were lights out shooting 50% from the field (33-66, 11-22 from three). The Rebels also tallied 23 points off 11 Spartan turnovers.
Head coach Tim Miles did try something new this time around trying to counter the overall struggles since their extended break. Instead of starting with three-guards, Miles started with his three bigs: Trey Anderson, Shon Robinson and Tibet Gorener to try and shake things up.
“I changed lineups tonight hoping the bigger lineup would help, then we got into foul trouble with Trey Anderson right away,” said Miles in his post-game interview. “That’s the risk we run with those big guys out there, because we don’t have enough.”
For all or most of Miles’ first season so far, the lack of big men depth has hurt. Without center Ibrahim Diallo and other bigs like Majok Kuath, Michael Ofoegbu and Ed Lane, the Spartans lack stopping power in the paint and more inside out play to open up his brand of offense.
First half maybe?
If there was anything to write home about, it could have been in the first half.
San Jose State shot 42% from the field (7-13), which was great, but UNLV’s 58% shooting (8-11) was even better in the first half.
Compounded by 11 first half Spartan turnovers didn’t help and along with no scoring in the last four minutes just made things worse, as UNLV pulled out to a 44-29 half time lead.
In all, 19 Spartan turnovers led to 23 Rebel points for the game.
But the biggest Spartan spark that was to come was from freshman guard MJ Amey, who’s hustle and spirited play was the only true bright spot.
Second half shooting woes with the Amey exception
Coming off the four-minute scoring dry spell at the end of the first half continued until the 12:25 mark of the second half for the Spartans until Anderson’s three-pointer. Anderson finished with nine points, four rebounds and two assists for the night.
As Miles had the look of conceding the game after a 16-3 UNLV run pushed the lead to 25, Amey began to erupt.
In Amey’s 16 minutes on the floor, he became the lone Spartan highlight with 23 points off the bench (8-11, 5-8 from three), while the Spartans overall shot only 37% on 18 of 49.
“We just haven’t been good coming off of this pause, except one guy,” said head coach Tim Miles on the COVID downtime and game reschedules. “MJ Amey plays his tail off and as hard as he can every second he’s out there and is grateful for whatever you give him.”
On their way to an even bigger learning experience in Wyoming
The Cowboys are quite possibly an NCAA tourney team and San Jose State will certainly have their hands full in every way possible on Wednesday.
The expectation Miles seems to be forewarning is of more growing pains.
“There’s a certain mentality every one of our guys needs to learn about,” said Miles. “Unless we establish this better mentality, we’ve got problems. We’re not going to get the growth we want and we’re not growing right now.”
Offensively, the struggles are marked by forced possessions and uncertainty. Defensively, the Spartans are equally out of sync. One feeds the other in any order and right now, the Spartans look lost.
“Confidence is earned,” said Miles on the warrior like play of Amey and Anderson. “If I keep throwing you out there that means I have confidence in you, but confidence is earned.”
It all sounds like Miles will continue to experiment and change things up as merited in season one of his program.