San Jose State basketball opens Mountain West play with a clank

san_jose_stateClank!

Get used to that noise. It’s a season in which the San Jose State men’s basketball team is far behind the curve and still looked at as building toward mediocrity in the Mountain West. And the bunch is going to spend every waking moment of it, apparently, launching 3-pointers.

And, in the case of Wednesday night’s opener against Nevada, missing most of them.

Whiff!

The Spartans shot just 34 percent for the game against Nevada in a 62-50 loss Wednesday in which they squandered a one-point halftime lead against one of two other bottom feeders in the conference (the other one being Air Force.) That lead, at 26-25, was not the last one, either. The Spartans actually got up by four in the second half before they went cold from the field and the Wolf Pack found their stroke.

Nevada went on an 18-3 run for a good six-minute span in the second half to not only erase the deficit, but put the game away. San Jose State’s shooting never improved, and the Spartans never found any kind of groove from any range. They were 5 for 20 from 3-point range in the game — not bad, but not good — but that small win is immediately negated by the fact that one player hit four of them.

Devante Wilson was the only player to really have a good game. He shot well from the field (4-7 from 3-point range, 6-6 on free throws) to lead the team with 18 points. D.J. Brown continues to show his potential as a pass-first point guard by getting five assists (to go with five points).

But the problems were glaring on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Cunningham was the only other player in double figures with 10 points, but needed needed 11 shots and was well under 50 percent shooting for the game to get there. For the teams only real post presence, he has to be better if he’s going to take that many shots.

Bonk! Rattle rattle rattle.

Rashad Muhammad, the teams surprise scoring juggernaut of the preseason, was quiet. He had just five points, and missed three 3-pointers; Jalen James, the team’s other big recruit, struggled from the field, making just one of seven shots.

This was a missed opportunity. Nevada (6-8) blew no one away in San Jose, and showed that they have a lot of work to do this season also if they want to even sniff the postseason. At 1 for 12 from 3-point range and 42 percent from the field, there was a lot to like about the Spartans defense considering how it has struggled.

San Jose State is going to go where its shooting takes it this season. That’s not going to be far, but when an opportunity like this is missed, it makes it oh so hard to stay optimistic going forward.

Clank!

Next game: at Utah State, Saturday at 6 p.m.

Sidenote: If you aren’t also checking out Kevin McCarthy’s Spartan Roundball blog, you’re missing out.

SJSU women fall at Nevada to open MWC play

For as hard as the men’s game was to take, the women’s was even harder.

San Jose State (6-6, 0-1) laid an egg on the road in Reno, once again allowing a team to hit the century mark in a 101-74 loss to the Wolf Pack on Wednesday. Much like the men, the problem isn’t hard to find – the Spartans shot just 32 percent from the field, and no one was better than 50 percent from the field for the game.

Nevada got 22 points from Danika Sharpe in the first half. The Spartans led for a total of 47 seconds before the Wolf Pack tied it up, then surged ahead. It got so bad the end of the bench was in the game in the second half.

Ta’Rea Cunnigan had 17 points, mostly by getting to the free throw line (10 for 13 on free throws). Three others — Classye James (11), Riana Byrd (10) and Jasmine Smith (13) — were in double figures. The Spartans, though, shot just 15.4 percent (2 for 13) from 3-point range in the first half and subsequently got buried by a 23 point deficit at halftime.

The Spartans were outrebounded 66-46. Despite nine blocks as a team for San Jose State, Nevada was 43 percent from the field for the game.

You have to feel for this team. Coach Jamie Craighead’s offense is a taxing one to run, and being shorthanded is only exacerbating the situation on defense. Only one player Wednesday night had less than 20 minutes on the court, and she was only a minute short of that mark. If the Spartans had a fuller bench right now, they might not have to barely win games by scoring 95-100 points.That’s just not going to happen every time they take the court.

They have a lot of talent, but with the personnel so thin at this point, it’s going to make the mere act of competing difficult at best.

Next game: vs. Utah State, 2 p.m. Saturday

Spartan Notes: San Jose State’s Larceval wins courage award from FWAA for comeback from illness

San Jose State defensive end Anthony Larceval was picked by the Football Writers Association of America for its courage award this year, after he battled back from a viral infection that could have ended his career to play in nine games this season.

The redshirt senior was hospitalized at the end of last year with viral meningoencephalitis, and doctors told him his football career was over. He was able to battle back to play this season. He is the second San Jose State player to win the award, following Neil Parry in 2003.

He will be honored at a banquet at the Orange Bowl in January.

For more: Spartan Athletics release on Larceval’s award.

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Week 14 MWC football picks: Utah State, Boise State battle to end for Mountain division

Breaking down who I think is going to win in this weekend’s Mountain West football games.

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MWC men’s hoops power rankings: UNLV disappoints, Spartans in last to start

UNLV was picked to finish at or near the top of the Mountain West by almost everyone, but the luster of those predictions seems like a long, long time ago.

The Rebels are 2-3 to open the season, not really putting up much of a fight against stronger competition they were supposed to go toe-to-toe with, and losing badly to two teams that no business coming to the Thomas and Mack Center and doing such things.

UNLV is lucky one of those games didn’t count.

San Jose State has won two in a row with a strong win over Pepperdine. It still isn’t enough to get them out of the rankings early doldrums.

Here are this week’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball rankings for the first few weeks of the season.

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MWC Roundup: ‘Ice cream fixes everything’ for San Jose State edition

935_-mountain_west_conference-primary-2011San Jose State coach Rob Caragher has stolen a page out of the kindergarten handbook in an attempt to lighten the dour mood around the South Campus.

After a lifeless performance in a loss to Nevada on Saturday,  he decided to bring some levity to this week’s practices by having the fat guys on the offensive and defensive line participate in a kicking contest, with ice cream as the prize.

It ended in a tie, so everyone got sweets, writes Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News. It makes the players take their mind off the task at hand at least, but it doesn’t necessarily fix the fact that the Spartans let the last really good opportunity to wrap up a bowl berth escape and run for a touchdown.

Now, it means having to do it against a 6-4 Navy team that runs the ball as well as anyone or an undefeated Fresno State program that is firing on all cylinders.

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Sunday Morning Quarterback: Spartans left in the dust by Nevada’s offense

Anyone watching Saturday night’s mauling in Reno could have legitimately asked which teams was nearly bowl eligible and which one wasn’t. And, if they didn’t know anything about the two teams, they would have been wrong.

Nevada — 3-7 entering the game — humiliated the Spartans in the second half thanks to a defense that proved to be surprisingly resilient in a 38-16 win. The Spartans didn’t score in the second half as Nevada poured on an additional 17 points to turn a win into a rout.

“I feel like we probably underestimated them,” SJSU linebacker Keith Smith told the Mercury News’ Jimmy Durkin.

Ya think?

Nevada had nothing to play for, their bowl hopes officially dashed last week with a loss to Colorado State. They were riding a five game losing streak, and new coach Brian Polian was busily confirming the suspicion that no one other than Chris Ault could lead that program to a bowl game. San Jose State was one win from a likely bowl game, and taking care of business meant they could exhale heading into two tough contests to close out the season, knowing that they were already bowl eligible.

It looks like they exhaled too early, and got left in the dust by a Nevada team that was all too eager to turn Saturday’s game into a track meet.

San Jose State’s defense let them down in the first half by not being able to solve Nevada’s running game or stop the Wolf Pack’s gimpy quarterback Cody Fajardo. Rather than come out and attempt to make a go of it in the second half after trailing by five at the half, rolled over in one of the most embarrassing displays by this team since the end of the Dick Tomey era.

This one is more on the offense than the defense: Remember, Wyoming hung 44 on the Spartans and still won. Other teams finally also kept pace with San Jose State — Colorado State and to a lesser degree Hawaii — because the Spartans defense just wasn’t up to stopping them.

That being said, San Jose State had made a living by outscoring opponents: 51 against Wyoming, 34 against Colorado State, 37 on Hawaii. This year’s San Jose State team is just built to do that really out of necessity, and when the offense flops around like a dying fish pulled from the water, it makes a loss inevitable.

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Saturday Preview: Spartans look to earn bowl eligibility against lowly Nevada

san_jose_stateNevada dominated its series with San Jose State for years, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. The Spartans only win was at home in 2007, and didn’t hurt the Wolf Pack’s bowl chances.

How the tables have been turned. This year, it’s the Spartans with something to lose against a struggling Nevada team. Usually, it’s the other way around.

Nevada has lost five straight and has just three wins in Brian Polian’s first year as coach of the Wolf Pack, and those wins against a mediocre FCS UC Davis team and two teams in the doldrums of the Mountain West (over winless Hawaii and a close call with two-win Air Force.)

This year’s struggles prove that no one other than Chris Ault can lead them to a bowl game. Only once in the last 23 years has anyone other than the legend Ault led the Wolf Pack to a bowl game, and that was Jeff Tisdel in 1996 with a team Ault assembled.

San Jose State is seeking to make a second straight bowl game for the first time since Claude Gilbert led the Spartans to back-to-back California Bowls in 1986 and 1987.

Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s game at Mackay Stadium in Reno at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

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