Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spartans win 89-78

There's a new sheriff in town and he's kicking behind and taking names. Actually, make that kicked behind and took names as Adrian Oliver, with a major assist from Tim Pierce, led San Jose State to a comfortable 89-78 victory over Northern Colorado Saturday afternoon at the Civic Auditorium.

Oliver must have coated himself with Rustoleum during his time off because any rustiness was pretty difficult to discern. In his very first game, he led the Spartans with 27 points. Pierce contributed 26 (6-10 on threes, the six treys being a career high).

Another player certainly deserving mention is Justin (move and I will find you) Graham. Performing in the role he seemingly prefers --setting up others -- he notched a career-high 13 assists on the afternoon.

In the second half, San Jose jumped out quickly and broadened its lead to 57-40 with 15:16 remaining but Northern Colorado refused to fold. With 11:50 left, the Spartan lead was 60-48 as the game became sloppy on both sides. The point differential dropped to nine a couple of times but the Bears just couldn't close the gap.

The game opened with both a crispness to SJSU's passing and the making of just about every Spartan shot attempt. San Jose State led 17-12 with 15 minutes remaining in the first half but Northern Colorado kept plugging away.

SJSU again extended the lead to 33-22 with 8:50 remaining. But the Bears continued to fight and the initial half concluded with the Spartans leading 44-37.

Oliver was part of the Spartan starting five along with Chris Oakes, C.J. Webster, Pierce and Graham.

A few moments worth highlighting:

*** Oliver went on a dribble-drive early in the game and tossed a pretty pass towards Oakes but the two mis-communicated and it resulted in a turnover -- that immediately showed the fans there was something and someone new worth watching.

*** Oliver also penetrated into the paint and kicked the ball out to an open Robert Owens for Owens' only basket of the game, a three-pointer.

*** Oliver's next-to-last basket -- a layup off a pass from Graham -- came as a result of Oliver going backdoor on his defender but what also must be mentioned is that contributing to the basket was Graham motioning for Oliver to comes towards him which resulted in an Oliver feint in that direction and then towards the hoop for the resulting layup.

*** Graham made a steal at the 17:24 mark of the second half, drove down and passed the ball off the backboard for a trailing Tim Pierce dunk.

The point being and thoroughly demonstrated today is that Oliver can both get his own shot when necessary but also create for his teammates. What was quite evident, something that we've previously written about, is that San Jose State now has two creators in the backcourt in Graham and now Oliver.

A hat tip goes to Northern Colorado's Devon Beitzel who scored 27 points on 12-14 shooting. His quick release made guarding him extra difficult.

Jabril Banks' foul trouble limited him to just 14 minutes of play for the Bears, a serious factor considering he is the best big man for NC.

Adrian Oliver Shot Chart

Granted, we should have been charting Tim Pierce too but here's our take on the shots Oliver took throughout the game:

First Half

*** shot one - missed 14-footer from the right side

*** shot two - missed a trey attempt from the left corner

*** shot three - made a 10-foot turnaround jumper from the left side

*** shot four - buried a three-pointer from the left side

*** shot five - buried a 23-foot straight-on three-pointer from the top of the key

*** shot six - missed a dribble-drive layup from the right side, major contact was made on the shot

*** shot seven - missed a fallback 17-footer from the right side

*** shot eight - missed a straight-on 14-footer

*** shot nine - scored on a left side rebound putback underneath the basket

*** shot ten - missed on a dribble-drive shot from the right side, again with major contact

*** shot eleven - nailed a 13-foot pullup jumper from the left side

Second Half

*** shot twelve - missed a 16-foot fadeaway jumper from the right side

*** shot thirteen - made a 17-footer from the left side

*** shot fourteen - scored on a layup after receiving a pass underneath the basket from Justin Graham

*** shot fifteen - nailed a three-footer from the right side off a Graham pass

*** shot sixteen - made a 10-foot fadeaway from the right side

*** shot seventeen - scored on a left side layup going backdoor on his man, pass from Justin Graham

*** shot eighteen - scored on a dribble-drive straight-on 12-footer


The San Jose State ball movement, especially in the first half, was at times remarkable, resulting in a number of layups and short shots. The Spartans made two thirds of their field goal attempts, shooting 60% in the first half and 76% in the second twenty minutes. SJSU also shot 63% from three-point range.

Look at that package of points: 89-78. We were worried that the Civic Auditorium scoreboard was going to start smoking.

Oliver was also credited with three blocked shots. We clearly recall two of them and both came when he realized another player -- not his man -- was going up for a shot and he moved over to get a piece of it. This is just like what he talked about earlier in our interview -- the 'sensing' or 'knowing' what will take place before it does.

We spotted Ed Uthoff, who looks like he could still control the paint, and also Kevin Fleming, in the audience.

Final item: Like Justin Graham, Adrian Oliver is but a sophomore. He played in five games, for 56 minutes in an injury-filled early 2007-2008 season, before transferring from Washington. His last game action was early December 2007. Also remember that his last season of consistent playing time ended in March 2007. It didn't look that way today.

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