After three tough losses against the best of the Mountain West, a hardened San Jose State (8-9, 1-3 MW) ground out their first conference win in dramatic fashion.
After starting out strong, a wild finish ended with MJ Amey’s contested three with no time left leading the Spartans to a 70-67 win over Air Force (7-8, 0-3 MW) Saturday night in Colorado Springs.
A first-half tale
The Spartans did it with a strong inside game to soften up the Falcons on both ends of the floor. Though both teams shot well, San Jose pulled out to a 46-33 half-time lead.
Active SJS bench play put in 19 first-half points to compliment forward Tibet Gorener’s 11 first-half points. The Spartans were also winning on the boards in the first-half with 18 rebounds to seven for Air Force; all contributing to the 13 point half-time lead.
6’6” sophomore Garrett Anderson highlighted the half with six straight points off the bench: rocking a two-hand jam after getting past his man from the edge; followed by two straight drives into the paint.
Floor general Alvaro Cardenas closed out the half with a methodical drive 35 feet from the basket luring in the Falcon defense before the soft lob to Adrame Diongue’s vigorous dunk.
But if there was a weakness from this Tim Miles’ group on this evening, Air Force’s array of back cuts were it.
Leary of where and how a loss might befall the Spartans, Air Force came alive as expected.
Tale of the second-half
A nine nothing run by Air Force opened the second-half until San Jose slowly re-awoke to make it a wild one.
The Falcons were energized coming out of the half. Led my Ethan Taylor, Beau Becker and Ryti Petraitis’ 19, 18, and 15 points, respectively, it looked as if Air Force would grab the win.
Keeping the momentum one-sided for the time being, Becker led the run cutting the Spartans’ lead to four. The Spartans had only two points in the first eight minutes of the half.
That is until the Falcons hit their draught and San Jose began forcing the issue again rediscovering their aggressiveness.
Amey struggled trying to keep the Spartans in the game. With two air balls in a row from three and inside the paint, then a rejection on a baseline drive, Amey’s three at the top of the key with 10 minutes remaining came when San Jose needed it most - leading to a 51-46 Spartan lead and the next 10 minutes of mayhem to come.
The wild finish began
Air Force began to rally as both teams equalized and awoke altogether; each desperate for their first conference win.
The back-and-forth continued before Gorener’s first points of the half came on a jumper in the paint with 2:36 left before the Falcons took back a five point lead.
With 1:19 on the clock, clutch 3s by Cardenas and Trey Anderson put San Jose up by one. Air Force battled inside getting to the line to then tie the game at 67.
With 10 second left, Cardenas looking for the game clincher air-balled a three attempt that was caught out-of-bounds by Air Force.
With more than a second left, Amey received the ball beyond the arc on the right side seemingly stuck and seemingly putting up a forced shot to the naked eye.
Low and behold, it was a Spartan rush to the floor around Amey to celebrate a buzzer beater finally favoring San Jose State and a good ride back home from Colorado.
Amey led the Spartans with 16 points, nine rebounds, a block, a steal and 37 minutes of perseverance.
San Jose travels to Fresno State next Tuesday.