After a disjointed first half start of basketball for San Jose State (7-16, 0-11 MW), it was amazing the Spartans were only behind 28-22 against the San Diego State Aztecs (14-6, 6-3) at the half.
The second half turned into a horse race that kept the Spartans in striking distance at least three different times. As some might call it a valiant 72-62 loss, it just showed how hard the Spartans need to fight just to reach par.
In a familiar story, the Aztecs were superior in size, strength and speed, especially when things turned into a street ball game.
It was a most painful first half start, why?
In MJ Amey’s first start as a Spartan, as a freshman and as an emerging pillar of the program, the first five minutes for Miles’ starting five was horrendous.
Perhaps it was regular starters Omari Moore, Trey Anderson, Alvaro Cardenas and Tibet Gorener being out of sync with the new one-fifth of their lineup.
However, whatever it was; it was unsure, tentative and indecisive basketball.
The Spartans’ opening sequence: two shot clock turnovers, two ugly bad pass turnovers and two badly missed 3-pointers (but only a 7-0 Aztec lead five minutes in).
It was six minutes into the half when the Spartans got their first points; a Moore 3-pointer, who finished the game with 11 points.
The Spartans did find their legs during the half and remained relentless through the ugliness, ending the half being down by only six points.
“I was happy with our guys resolve,” said Miles on the Spartans’ physicality in trying to keep up with the Aztecs. “I thought our guys showed a real toughness, a competitiveness and they dug in and played solid defense and rebounded against a team that’s superior in that way.”
A horse race with not enough horses
The first five minutes of the second half was gangbusters. A feverish exchange of 3s, dunks and fast breaks by both teams saw the Spartans behind by four- and six-points and certainly in striking distance.
Then two things happened as the second half settled out:
- 6’4, 220 lb. senior Aztec guard Matt Bradley’s 28 points were just about at will, as he got to about any spot he wanted to, while several Spartans got into foul trouble trying to stop the unstoppable.
- Two badly missed 3s in a row by the Spartans went the other way led to three different and-one opportunities for Bradley, who capitalized.
And just like that, 12:50 into the second half - an 11-point Aztec lead.
The Spartans last run with three minutes left brought them to 58-51, but three consecutive defensive lapses led to wide open driving dunks and blow by’s that led to easy, entertaining Aztec points.
“One is lack of sheer depth and two is experience,” said Miles on the reasons for the defensive slip ups. “Some of the guys who got beat were guys who are young and who’ve never really been in that position. They have to learn from that, commit it to memory and for those guys with a true love for the game, you’ll see that improve as they develop.”
The emergence of MJ
“Myron Amey Jr. is someone who gives,” said Miles. “His energy. His passion. His intensity. He gives it to the team in every practice, in every workout and every game. His sheer will is what you’re seeing from an under-recruited guy.”
“To illustrate his confidence tonight,” as Miles continued. “MJ was saying if we could get this matchup, ‘I can get downhill on this guy every time.’ And I said, ‘All right, we’ll figure that out and get the ball to you.’”
Amey’s second strong game against top level competition saw a double-double performance of 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Aztecs. Against Boise State, Amey’s 24 points led all scorers.
With what’s remaining of season one for Miles, it looks like more tinkering and rotation adjustments will continue in hopes more bright spots open up and the other bright spots keep getting brighter.