Call it pent up frustrations or taking what the defense gives you. Either way, Air Force (12-9, 3-5 MW) was on the wrong end of the stick, as San Jose State (13-8, 4-4 MW) pummeled the Falcons in a 82-52 home win.
“They just wanted to win after losing a couple of tough ones in a row in very difficult environments,” said SJS head coach Tim Miles. “They want to see that growth and they’re capable of it and that’s what you saw tonight - that determination.”
To beat a potent Air Force team, a Spartans’ swarming defense held the Falcons to 39% from the field, while SJS shot 58% led by Omari Moore’s 26 points; his seventh 20+ point outing this season, where Moore tallied 19 in the first-half alone.
Moore drives to the basket early and often
“I feel like in the last couple games I was kind of falling in love with the three too much,” said Moore. “So, I’m just trying to get back to what I know I’m really good at and not just settling.”
“With what their defense was showing, I was able to do a lot of that.”
Air Force tried a variety of defenses, but each Moore drive to the basket saw the Falcons looking up as Moore dropped layups from above the rim.
The Spartans’ deep-in scoring was also early and often. SJS used their bigger size inside to continually punish the smaller Falcons.
“Against Air Force you have to do well in the paint,” said Miles. “52-26 in the paint is an important category to how you handle their offense and have to attack them and it led to a good night for the Spartans.”
The gold standard inside was 6’8” 245 lb. forward Robert Vaihola. Vaihola’s double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) was indicative of the physicality also on display by SJS’ other bigs: Sage Tolbert and Ibrahima Diallo.
“I knew they were switching a lot,” said Vaihola. “So, I was going to end up with smaller guys on me and I had to make sure we took advantage of that.”
52 pounding points in the paint was the perfect defense against a solid shooting Air Force team. It was the first time Air Force allowed a team to break the 80-point barrier this season.
After a 46-31 Spartan half-time lead, Air Force’s second-half push sputtered out quickly, as SJS pulled away with a continued active defense and an inside scoring barrage that eventually demoralized Air Force.
With less than six minutes remaining in the game, Miles emptied the bench.
A perfect respite for Moore’s 34 minutes straight, along with Cardenas’ 12-points and his 34 straight minutes.
With Moore tops in the conference in minutes played is there worry from Miles about wear and tear?
“I play the heck out of those guys and I don’t feel that bad for them,” said Miles. “We’ve got two of our top guys out with injury and that puts a lot of burden on Alvaro and Omari.”
Moore added, “No, it’s not a thing playing all those minutes. I enjoy playing basketball and I definitely would rather be on the court than off it to help the team win. So, I don’t mind the minutes. I’ve just got to continue to take care of my body.”
On to the halfway point in conference play and on to San Diego State on Saturday.
“This game is its own beast,” said Miles on the Air Force game. “San Diego State is a whole different beast.”
“Each game has its own kind of rules in how we play and what we do and the Aztecs present a whole other set of circumstances.”