As star Spartan guard Omari Moore ground out his ninth 20-point effort of the season with 22 points; moving to 12th all-time for San Jose State (14-10, 5-6 MW), the Spartan offense struggled to find consistency in a 70-62 loss to Fresno State (9-14, 5-7 MW).
It was a different looking Bulldog team than the Spartans faced in their first go-around win. A supposed not-so-good three-point shooting team went eight of 12 on a night Fresno shot 54% to SJS’ 35%.
It was also a different looking Bulldog team defensively that locked down Moore enough to disrupt any team scoring rhythm and to keep the Spartans from winning in Fresno since 2009.
San Jose State’s clunky first-half started fast with Moore opening the scoring from the arc. But the proceeding five minutes saw SJS go 0-8 with two turnovers, as head coach Tim Miles went to his seven-man rotation for the evening.
With wings Sage Tolbert and Tibet Gorener in and Rob Vaihola in the paint, the Spartans got in their runs, as did Fresno State. A 10-0 SJS spurt and 9-0 Fresno span were the big runs for the half, but it was former Fresno Stater Vaihola’s play that was the signature of the half.
In 13 minutes in the first-half, Vaihola’s 10 points in the paint via his back-in play and put-backs sparked the Spartans; lending to Moore’s nine first-half points to only trail by two at the half.
With Moore not in the scoring mix the last 10 minutes of the half, Moore’s back-to-back chase downs 13 minutes into the half was a different Moore signature. After the Spartan’s sixth turnover, Moore’s full court hustle took it back followed by another immediate chase down after a seventh turnover to almost block Fresno’s Isaiah Hill.
In all, 10 first-half turnovers for the Spartans.
Opening the second-half, an 11th turnover over for SJS (13 overall).
Three Bulldogs with double-digit scoring throttled the Spartans most of the game, though SJS did its second-half run in also tightening its defense and offering some bursts of offense.
Holding Fresno to a 4:20 scoring drought to briefly take a two-point lead half-way into the second half and highlighted by back-to-back dunks by Sage Tolbert and Moore was the second-half highlight for the Spartans.
Vaihola entered back with 8:46 with hope, but with four fouls could not match his first-half energy. Vaihola’s 14 points and seven rebounds continues a notable season effort.
One final scoring burst found the Spartans last one-point lead until the Bulldogs pulled away to a 10-point lead and a failed last ditch efforts by SJS in its 70-62 loss.
Though team rebounding continues to be a Spartan strength, second chance points not so much on this night.
The Spartans head back home and a Saturday evening with Utah State next.