clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spartans grind out win over pesky Rams

Defense guts it out until a 15-2 closeout run the last four minutes

SJSU Spartan guard Alvaro Cardenas scores two of his 16 points vs. Colorado State, Provident Credit Union Event Center, February 28, 2023
photo by: Terrell Lloyd

First things first: San Jose State (18-12, 9-8 MW) has to win its last regular season game against another pesky team in Air Force on Saturday at altitude in Colorado (6,788’) to best assure an unimaginable first round bye in the Mountain West conference tournament. Or, of course, a New Mexico loss does it just as well.

Second thing: in the city of San Jose, it’s been decades since the Spartans have seen, felt or heard of an 18-win season. 1981 to be exact.

Nancy, a long-time Spartan alum since the 1960s, said to second-year head coach Tim Miles, “You’ve made basketball fun again around here!”

Miles said in the post-game presser, “I was in junior high school and basketball wasn’t even in my heart yet.”

The Spartans pulled away in the final minutes to a 63-46 win over the Rams for SJS’ ninth conference win. San Jose’s first season series sweep of the Rams considering the Spartans are 2-23 overall vs. Colorado State.

As bizarro as that sounds, the Mountain West as a whole this season has seen unreal basketball. It’s been fun, exciting and unpredictable must-see TV.

Without exception on Tuesday night, a defiant Colorado State (13-17, 5-12 MW) gave the Spartans fits completely opposite to what their record indicates. Look at how last place Wyoming handled Nevada this past Monday.

“The Rams did an excellent job mucking things up changing defenses and were still super dangerous on offense,” said Miles. “But I thought overall we got great effort, especially an outstanding defensive effort that allowed us to find victory.”

In the first-half, Colorado pressed full court early and often to try and disrupt the Spartans, but SJS countered just as well.

Five early aggressive Rams’ fouls and some testy exchanges ignited defensive energy from the Spartans indicative of a team seeming to be peaking at the right time with still a lot of upside.

Colorado forced six first-half Spartan turnovers with three shot clock violations as SJS was 10-28 from the field with 19 rebounds. But statistically, the Rams were on par as well.

“Colorado’s been full-court pressing teams their last 10 games,” said Spartan point guard Alvaro Cardenas. “They’re trying to get us to have less time to run our plays more than trying to create turnovers, because they weren’t really trapping that much.”

Cardenas responded with three 3s and 11 points in the first-half to keep the Spartans at arms length finishing with 16 points on the night.

10 minutes into the first-half, the Spartans first flurry of action started the early separation. A series of steals, 3s and blocked shots led to a 7-0 run, before the Rams answered with their own 6-0 run ending in a 27-22 Spartan half-time lead.

The second-half saw the need for more scorers to join Cardenas, as the grind continued with the Rams within striking distance until an emphatic alley-oop dunk by Ibrahima Diallo from Cardenas with 6:37 left.

Back-to-back 3s by star Spartan guard Omari Moore with under five minutes started a 15-2 run. Moore’s eight points in the second-half were joined by Trey Anderson’s 10 second-half points to help complete the run and the win and sweep of the Rams.

Moore finished with 14 points and Anderson with 13.

“I really believe that when Nevada and New Mexico D’d us up and then we dug in and guarded Boise well, we did that for the most part tonight,” said Miles on the key to the game. “And we’re really going to need that against Air Force, who’s been sitting there for eight days without a game knowing they’re going to play us. That’s a big advantage for them and we’re going to need that kind of defensive effort against the Falcons.”

In the wild Mountain West, Air Force’s record (14-16, 5-12 MW) speaks nothing of what to expect for the Spartans. Again, normal for the MW this season. Miles and team completely understand that.

Though SJS has deservedly become the “darlings’ of the conference and beyond, the status quo will continue to over-rationalize losses to the lowly Spartans and minimize their wins. It’s just the way the real world works.

“This is just the start. It’s just the beginning.” said Trey Anderson. “We’ve made a push for sure, but we still have a lot more to prove and that respect will come in time.”