“Down the street” in Orlando, Florida, the Spartans’ Mountain West Aztec brothers pummeled their opponent by 23 points in the NCAA tournament to make the Sweet 16 in Louisville.
An hour north in Daytona Beach, San Jose State (21-13) earned its own commanding opening round win in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) over first-year D1 team Southern Indiana Saturday afternoon.
In their continued historic season, the second-seeded Spartans’ dominating 77-52 win over the 15th seed Screaming Eagles is the first ever postseason win in six tries (not including conference tournaments).
The face-off was SJS’ first meeting against Southern Indiana and SJS’ second CBI tourney since 2011 in a loss to Creighton.
San Jose State’s size advantage
In only the first five minutes, the Eagles found its only lead before the Spartans took off, as it should have been expected.
With a clear size advantage that includes the physicality and speed representative of the Mountain West, the Spartans blew out to a 19-point lead in the first-half; shooting 62% from the field.
With confident play from the get-go against an over-matched Screaming Eagles team, head coach Tim Miles started to play his bench early in earning one of the overlooked tangibles in postseason play - more playing time, more experience and more bench play to catapult into next season.
With the size advantage, the Spartans saw more down-low play; blasting by the Eagles 36 to 16 in paint points by the end of the game.
With the seventh best rebounding differential in the nation, the Spartans also crashed the offensive boards in an 18-8 disparity and a 50-25 overall rebound advantage.
The only concern was losing center Ibrahima Diallo to an ankle injury in the first-half that kept him out for the remainder of the game. Signs seem to indicate Diallo’s injury was minor.
Moore, Viahola, Cardenas & 25 bench points
With Diallo out, the Spartans saw forward Sage Tolbert at the five position. Tolbert finished with nine points and eight rebounds, while forward Robert Viahola naturally also held up the Spartans’ paint presence with 10 points and nine rebounds.
While the Spartans dominated everything, Omari Moore’s deceiving athleticism saw a near-effortless 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists and a 21 plus/minus in only 31 minutes of play.
But it was sophomore guard Alvaro Cardenas continued aggression that saw a career-high 22 points (8-13 from the field & 3-6 from the arc). A week ago, Cardenas had played an intensely aggressive game against San Diego State in the conference semi-final loss that bore no results, but carried well into Daytona.
With four minutes left, Miles emptied the bench. While the game entered cruise control, to no surprise, Miles continued to coach.
The Spartans will face with seventh-seeded Tarleton or 10-seeded Radford Monday afternoon.