SAN JOSE — It’s usually hard to find the silver lining in any of San Jose State’s losses this season.
Each defeat has come in either blowout losses or painful close games where SJSU had every oppertunity to come away with a victory.
But Wednesday night’s 70-67 loss to rival Fresno State was different.
Despite losing a heartbreaker in which the Spartans led by nine with under six minutes left in the fourth, SJSU looks like it found its point guard of the future: Jyah LoVett.
Freshman LoVett finished with a career-high 26 points on 11 for 18 shooting from the field and 3 for 4 from beyond the arc.
“It’s been a process of learning curves in there for her, but I think we’re we’re getting are getting her to a space where she’s able to play more composed,” said SJSU coach April Phillips.
“I think she’s done a really good job. She’s just a compettior and she’s easy to coach in that way. She’ll keep getting better and she’s got a really good future here at San Jose.
LoVett had her eyes locked on SJSU from the beginning of her recruitment process. Though the previous coaching staff had been the one she built a relationship with, it was something about Phillips that made her want to be a Spartan.
“It was funny, the previous coaching staff had already been recruiting me,” LoVett said. “Then I decided to do a prep year and I heard coach (Phillips) got the coaching job. Me and (Phillips) go way back, she’s been watching me since middle school. She made me feel like home.”
This season, LoVett has stepped into the role of being the Spartans’ leading scorer as a freshman.
Her first game at SJSU was a big sign that she would not only be a rotation piece, but a long term option at point guard. She scored 13 points against Santa Clara in the Spartans’ season opener and ended the night as the Spartans’ leading scorer.
Over the course of the first 12 games this season, LoVett is averaging 13.9 points and 2.5 assists per game. She has had to do even more with the slew of injuries SJSU has had this season.
On Wednesday, SJSU dressed just nine players with five key rotation players (Maya Anderson, Finau Tonga, Sophia Jones, Semaj Smith and Jasmine Singleton) sidelined with injuries. But that didn’t matter to LoVett as she was the catalyst of the Spartans’ offense in the second half.
LoVett scored 15 second half points including two 3-pointers that gave SJSU leads of eight and nine. At one point in the fourth quarter, she scored eight straight points and forced Fresno State to call a timeout to stop the bleeding.
Long term, SJSU will need LoVett to continue to be the go-to scorer on this team if she can. Unfortunately, LoVett suffered an injury of her own on the Spartans’ final possession as she charged into a Fresno State defender and twister her ankle. There is still no timetable on when the team will be at full strength, and losing LoVett would be a massive loss for Phillips.
If LoVett can finish out Mountain West play strong, the Spartans could surprise some teams like they almost surprised Fresno State on Wednesday night.
Ultimately, the bigger question is if LoVett continues to play like the best freshman in the conference, will she poached by a bigger school with a larger NIL presence? Possibly.
SJSU doesn’t exactly have the pockets that a Cal or a Stanford do and probably won’t anytime soon. But what the Spartans do have going for them is the relationships that LoVett has secured in the short amount of time that she has been at SJSU.
“I’m very humbled,” LoVett said about being one of the top freshman in the Mountain West. “But I definitely feel like I’m one of the top freshman for sure.”
If the Spartans could keep her on board in the long term and build a team around their talented freshman, Phillips could build something spectacular at SJSU.
But only time will tell.
Photo Courtesy of SJSU Athletics