A dreadful 30-point loss to Fresno State (15-6, 5-3 MW) Tuesday night in San Jose epitomized just how near and how far the Spartans (7-13, 0-8 MW) rebuild has to go.
Just last month, the Spartans lost convincingly to the Bulldogs.
In Tuesday’s 73-43 loss, there were those common glimpses of being able to perform at a high level with those short bursts of confidence and the thought that maybe you can square up on a conference rival.
Eight minutes into the first half, San Jose State went on an 8-0 run and were up 14-10. It was that all too familiar glimmer of hope.
But after a Fresno timeout, the Bulldogs snuffed out that glimmer quickly and San Jose felt a 14-0 run in response – and boom…a 32-23 half-time lead for Fresno.
It’s always the little things
“It was a mistake here and a mistake there,” said Miles on Fresno’s response to the Spartans’ lively first half start. ”I thought we took a couple of questionable shots after that timeout. We had a guy try to drive hard, puts up a bad shot; it gets blocked; it goes the other way and they make you pay in transition.”
“Fresno’s one of the top defensive teams in the country and they could get any offense out of kilter,” Miles added on how the Bulldogs neutralized the Spartans.
The Spartans clearly also had a game plan to double up on star Bulldog center Orlando Robinson, which was generally effective, but it came at a huge expense in not being able to protect the perimeter.
“When Fresno’s got Robinson down low and they go 8-12 from three, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Miles said. “It also had a cumulative effect on us where you could see the spirit of our guys withering a bit.”
Where are the Spartans’ big boy pants?
“I told the team after the game ‘hey this is messy; it’s not fun and everybody’s miserable. We need to show up tomorrow, then play a white-hot Utah State team and then to Boise’,” said Miles, “We have to go in with good enthusiasm, try to do the right thing and put our big boy pants on. We can’t have a pity party. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves and we have to go out and continue to try to get better.”
When will the tree fall?
The Spartans were only able to dress eight for the game and against a deep Fresno team, things went from thin to thinner.
In the effort to circumvent NBA-bound Robinson, both Spartan staples Trey Anderson and Omari Moore reached max fouls.
With four minutes left and the game far out of reach, San Jose finished the game with all freshmen on the floor with MJ Amey, Josh O’Garo, Shon Robinson, Alvaro Cardenes and Tibet Gorener.
Mind you they all have pit bull fight in them, but being unable to hit shots and without the mental continuity to read and play as one, Miles’ team is quite far off.
But at the same time, it doesn’t mean their road has to be long.
“That’s just where we’re at right now,” Miles said. “We haven’t been able to get traction from the get go since August. We had this roster and we think it’s this kind of roster and often who you think you are in the fall, it’s not who you are in the winter.”
Miles added, “Our guys have to keep their spirit and protect their spirit and keep that energy level going and keep chopping wood and eventually, the tree falls.”