After getting shut down by New Mexico, San Jose State (12-8, 3-4 MW) visited another intense full-house at Utah State (16-4. 5-2 MW) Saturday in a completely different Tim Miles’ product from just four days ago.
Against the top three-point shooting team in the country in Utah State, the Spartans’ inside and outside game made for a high-velocity, road-thrilling 75-74 loss, where SJS held the lead for a majority of the game.
In a much better start, SJS handled USU by pounding the offensive boards that bore 20 second chance points and timely three-pointers that quieted the crowd for the most part. Spartan guard Omari Moore also continued to force the issue wire-to-wire to set the tone for the game.
10 first-half points of high-driving layups and dunks by Moore could only be outdone by Spartan forward Tibet Gorener’s four first-half threes.
At one point, the Spartans held an 11-point lead over the Aggies until Utah State hit its first three with 3:15 left in the first-half to finally turn things into a dog fight in a 37-30 half-time lead for San Jose State.
Gorener sizzled with six three-pointers and 20 points overall. Moore’s 16 points and hustling guard Alvaro Cardenas added 17 for the Spartans.
Though the Spartans gathered 33 boards and held the lead for 32 minutes, it was the Aggies who survived to the final seconds with the nation’s top three-point specialist in the Aggies’ Steven Ashworth. Ashworth’s 19 points with 16 points in the second-half were highlighted by five drains beyond the arc to keep the Aggies in constant striking distance.
The second-half started with more intensity by both teams with the Aggies finally heating up beyond the arc for what could have been a ready-for-prime-time seesaw battle.
The second-half saw 10 lead changes with the Spartans and Aggies trading threes. Though the Spartans shot 91% from the line and 45% from three, the Aggies 54% to SJS’ 44% from the field made the difference towards the last second win.
With five seconds left, the Aggies’ Max Shulga made one-of-two from the line to make it 75—74. Moore controlling the Spartans’ last two possessions slipped and lost the ball on a drive, then dished to Cardenas who missed an open three-point attempt to end the game.
The Spartans are at home next Tuesday to face Air Force.