Just over a year ago, Mountain West champion Boise State (22-7, 12-4 MW) who were then 8-1 just got by then 1-6 San Jose State (17-12, 8-8 MW) 87-86.
Last month at Boise, the Spartans nearly beat the Broncos, but lost 67-64 on a 3-pointer by Boise’s Marcus Shaver with 22 seconds left, where SJS stormed back after being down by 14.
Saturday night, the Spartans finally demystified the Broncos in an upset win at the Provident Credit Union Event Center in a 74-68 OT thriller in front of 2,300.
It was only the fourth time beating Boise State in 42 games in the historical head-to-head matchup.
How did the Spartans do it?
“For awhile I wasn’t as optimistic, but the guys really rallied,” said head coach Tim Miles. “With defense, staying on the glass and Omari Moore doing what Omari Moore does.”
The Spartans gathered 53 rebounds with 21 offensive rebounds for 15 second chance points. The Broncos 32 rebounds and four offensive rebounds with zero second chance points speaks to SJS’ paint protection despite the Spartans early shooting woes.
Defense and rebounding were the signatures for this San Jose win. The ink to the win was finding two other contributors to finally begin to balance out the scoring for the Spartans.
As Moore’s 24 points were off a Bronco defense keying and doubling him each time, freshman forward Garrett Anderson and Robert Viahola’s 13 and 15 points, respectively, buoyed the Spartans and spread the floor; widening the Bronco defense.
“We were 1-12 shooting with our 3s and 4s and we’re struggling,” said Miles on the shakeup. “So, I decided to go with two bigs and put Garrett in, which was really big for us. He’s a tough matchup.”
A two-handed block in the paint on Bronco center Lukas Milner highlighted Anderson’s defense and added another dimension to what the entire Spartan defense was doing - essentially keeping SJS in the game until more of the offense arrived.
Another angle of this great block by @_garyanderson_ #AllSpartans | #RunToTheFight pic.twitter.com/Cu6bsDvvHR— San Jose State Men’s Basketball (@SanJoseStateMBB) February 26, 2023
“I’m going in there with the mindset that I know I’m just as good as them and can compete with them and can beat them,” said Anderson who continues to shine his way into more playing time.
First-half: 32% from the field for the Spartans; Broncos 54%
The Spartans saw eight clumsy turnovers and way too many bad offense sets in the first-half.
Perhaps it was the defensive effort draining some of SJS’ offensive legs to operate. Whatever it was, a scrappy Spartan team only trailed the Broncos by six at the half with usual suspect Moore trying to shoulder all of the offense, along with Viahola’s offensive rebound prowess and put backs.
“One thing I’m impressed of with the group: Tibet, Alvaro, Omari and Ibrahima went through a 1-17 season before and the amount of wherewithal to believe in yourself and to go against those external forces of doubt tells you a lot of their hearts and mental toughness,” said Miles.
The second half starts with a bang
The Broncos immediately start full-court pressure forcing two quick turnovers, but two early timeouts by Miles settles things out for the rest of the half.
With the first four minutes into the second-half, the offensive exchanges kept the game close enough until SJS’ continued defensive pressure finally swung the momentum.
“Whatever teams throw at me defensively, I’ll still keep attacking and trusting in our game plan,” said Moore on extra pressure opposing teams put on him.
10:36 into the second-half, the Spartans found themselves down by 10, then down by 12 with less than eight minutes left.
Until a Moore three started to reel the Spartans back in.
And then Moore’s statement of the night: his 18th and 19th point courtesy of another ESPN-highlight dunk in traffic with seven minutes left.
The Spartan defense then clamped down tighter holding the Broncos scoreless for over five minutes.
Alvaro Cardenas’ straight-on three with one minute left led to Viahola going to the line to tie the game leading to overtime.
The Spartans’ defensive stranglehold continued to squeeze the Broncos as SJS controlled and closed-out the OT for the win.
San Jose State faces Colorado State this Tuesday for its last home game of the season.