FRESNO, Calif. — It was evident in San Jose State’s 85-82 loss against Fresno State Tuesday night that the lack of size and athleticism is where teams want to take advantage on the defensive end.
Even with a 32-point performance from Tibet Gorener couldn’t save the Spartans from a last second buzzer beater at the hands of Fresno State guard Isaiah Hill.
“(Fresno’s) interior defense was much better than ours, that’s a real weakness for us,” said SJSU coach Tim Miles.
The Spartans gave up 40 points in the paint and were only in the game because they made 17 of 29 3-pointers.
SJSU still hasn’t found depth at the center position and have been forced to play small ball even when being out-rebounded. Starting center Andrame Diongue scored just two points and couldn’t stop Fresno State center Enoch Boakye who finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Behind Diongue, the Spartans have played Will Humer and DJ Sexias, but both have not made much of an impact down low. Miles said he’s open to inserting freshman Christian Wise into the rotation who hasn’t played much all season.
“Every option has to be available to us,” Miles said. “We shouldn’t be searching for guys in January.”
Two weeks ago after the Spartans lost to San Diego State, point guard Alvaro Cardenas said the team needed to make up for the lack of size by playing “perfect defense.”
But that style of play is not sustainable. Without a big man who can clean up on the boards or erase shots to the basket, it’s going to be difficult for this Spartan team to win close games like this even when they shoot the lights out of the ball.
But it will take a team effort. The Bulldogs’ guards let loose on the Spartans with four guards scoring in double figures. Cardenas and MJ Amey were beat multiple times on drives to the basket, and with no rim protection, it was a recipe for disaster.
“it just comes down to our concentration, our focus and our effort,” Gorener said. “We really got to focus on rebounding area. I think we’ll figure it out.”
The Spartans’ struggles will continue to persist as they get deeper into league play. New Mexico, who has two all-conference guards in Jalen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr., attack the basket at will.
The upside of this team is that every loss has been close. It reality, SJSU should be undefeated in conference play. But blown losses to Wyoming, Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State has not helped build this team’s confidence.
The Spartans can compete and there’s no doubt about that. But still, this team has not been able to close games, especially when there’s no cohesion within the closing lineups. Cardenas, Amey, Gorener and Trey Anderson have all been solid contributors. But the fifth spot has been a question mark all season. At some point, losing close games is just not going to be good enough for this Spartan squad.
“All you do is brush up on the fundamentals and do the fundamentals better and harder,” Miles said.