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San Jose State Basketball: Spartans show up, Cowboys show out

SJSU guard MJ Amey against Wyoming, February 12, 2022 at the Provident Event Center
photo by: Joe Couto

What do famous musicians George Straight, John Denver and Roy Rodgers have in common?

They wrote famous songs about the state of Wyoming.

Saturday night at San Jose State (7-17, 0-12 MW), Wyoming’s Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado sure played their own tune on the Spartans with the Cowboys (21-3, 10-1 MW) rolling to a 74-52 win.

Maldonado’s 23 points and Ike’s 25 points and 18 rebounds epitomized power basketball for the first place Cowboys.

In short, it was the familiar story of Tim Miles’ Spartans not having enough horsepower for Wyoming’s strong inside game.

Four cylinders vs. eight cylinders

The first half has a familiar ring to it for San Jose State.

The Spartans were shaky; missing two open layups in a row followed by a Wyoming 3-pointer and two more down low.

The story of the night for the Spartans – missed layups.

“Lots of missed layups – too many missed layups,” said Miles. “They were all shots we made when we played Wyoming last time.”

Spartan freshman guard MJ Amey, in full attack mode all game long (with a sprained ankle), drove to the basket at least 10 different times in the game – missing each layup. Amey still ended the night as the Spartans top scorer with 19 very hard points (4-18, 4-8 from the arc).

Halfway through the first, San Jose’s off-ball movement kicked in and successive 3s by Omari Moore, Alvaro Cardenas and Shon Robinson provided a big push.

“We run a variety of sets designed for screen-and-rolls and some where everyone touches it with rhythm to it,” said Miles on the Spartans’ first half surge. “But what I was disappointed in is I didn’t see the ball go in the paint and we didn’t kick it out or make that extra pass.”

Miles added, “We didn’t do the extras tonight and we didn’t have the extras tonight. And that’s why our offense suffered.”

With two minutes left in the half, a 7-0 run by Wyoming and a Spartan scoring drought gave the lead back to the Cowboys, 33-29.

Another familiar story – the Spartans well within striking distance at half-time.

Wyoming throttles up, pulls away

With more horsepower in the straightaway, everyone knows the bigger, stronger engine wins.

“Maldonado scored four different times over our big guys,” said Miles. “He’s a 6’7” point-guard with exceptional length and athleticism. You just have to credit him.”

Ike also had his way with the Spartans with a superior inside game; even when doubled and triple teamed.

“You’d like to think you’re going to win some of the battles with our bigs and we didn’t win any of them late in the game and that’s why it got away from us,” said Miles.

A new Spartan bright spot

6’9” sophomore forward Majok Kuath, coming off recent shoulder surgery, injected 17 minutes of new energy in the paint. Kuath’s season just started this month.

“He’s like Inspector Gadget,” said Miles on his acrobatic body contortions for his 13 points and six rebounds. “But his conditioning is awful and his mental readiness with regards to knowing the play packages are not good.”

“We’ve already had stuff in and out of our packages, where Majok asked me the other day, ‘Hey, what about this play?’ and I said, ‘We quit running that in August,’” said Miles in his continued lightheartedness around Kuath’s contributions.

For Miles himself, he also remains bright through it all

As one of the few beat writers in the pits through the season, Miles’ transparency and energy is still always evident and genuine.

And it’s still safe to assume that his hiring is the type of temperament and leadership that’s needed to lift the program north.

The effort needed to build the program is not for the faint of heart, as the future expectation is for Miles to craft his own hit song for the Spartans.