San Jose State (8-14, 1-8 MW) faded and weakened right out of the gate against Nevada (17-5, 4-4 MW) in a nightmare 90-60 loss in front of a raucous Wolf Pack crowd Friday night.
Consider that the Spartans shocked Nevada in the Mountain West tournament last year for San Jose’s first-ever tourney win. And consider some were unsure what Nevada team would show up against San Jose State after a 34-point Wolf Pack loss to New Mexico and some of their own relative ups-and-downs.
But Nevada clearly never forgot that tourney loss and repaid the Spartans in spades.
Nevada’s heavy dose of three-pointers, elite defense and offensive prowess offered text-book basketball over a Spartan team with a basic defensive identity of fouling. 11 fouls in the first-half put Nevada into the bonus just nine minutes into the game. The Spartans had 24 fouls in all.
Against Nevada, there was almost zero legitimate SJS defense. A 25-point deficit at the end of the first-half ballooned to 43 points just a few minutes into the second-half.
It was bad enough that head coach Tim Miles made a complete lineup change just three minutes into the second-half taking out the starters and essentially starting anew; eventually easing some of the normal rotation back in.
It’s difficult to think that just a year ago, Miles was the conference coach of the year with an amazing 21 wins for a Spartan program aching for a basketball presence. But this year with a few roster twists and turns, the 2023-2024 season is quite different and quite difficult to say the least.
Normally a good offensive team, San Jose State has been formidable scoring this year, but against the Wolf Pack defense Friday night, the Spartan offense suffered along with its lack of defensive consistency, anticipation and fire/intimidation.
With SJS not known for its defense; now missing a reliable Spartan offense until garbage-time (which was most of the second-half), Nevada completely avenged the tourney loss to SJS in a 30-point blowout win Friday night.
Even with an unrelenting Nevada team with the game well-in-hand and shooting 48% from the arc, Miles’ team continued to scrap and claw. Despite the lopsided score, glancing at Miles on the big screen, Miles looked to continue to evaluate what else was there and what other drastic changes may need to happen to save the season.
Though physically on paper listed as one of the “bigger” Mountain West rosters, it’s clear in person or on screen that San Jose is not. It’s doubly clear there is also no natural inside size and presence to counteract every team coming right into the belly of the Spartans.
If there was one slight bright spot halfway into the second-half, SJS forward Tibet Gorener hit his 161st three to tie the all-time Spartan record to join former Spartan Ryan Welage.
San Jose State next faces Fresno State at home Tuesday night.