The basketball world this season is no longer as it was -- so vividly demonstrated when Andy Katz asked this question today in his ESPN column: "Is beating UCLA actually a quality win for Portland?"
Okay, was the hard-fought loss to Washington not an anomaly -- more a sign of the capability of this season's Spartan team? We think so. But maybe so much 'juice' was expended there that a depletion of sorts versus UC Riverside should not have come as a surprise. The energy present in Seattle simply wasn't there in southern California. A beatable team -- the Highlanders -- won with a greater overall effort.
Riverside came in with a typical pick-your-poison plan -- a decision to force the Spartans to win via long-range shots. San Jose State didn't accomplish that as the Highlanders packed defenders into the paint and issued multiple dares. The 'smalls' have to do a better job of shooting accurately.
Another element that was missing was what we will call re-direction. The San Jose State 'bigs' needed to determine early what they were going to be able to accomplish against such a defensive style. Entry passes were going to be few and far between going against multiple defenders and the ability to maneuver with the ball very minimal. But the SJSU frontcourters ultimately committed just as many turnovers as the backcourters during the game.
Plus, off-the-ball movement and a willingness to bang -- or bang back -- going for offensive rebounds would be critical. The Spartans were out-boarded 39-33 although the offensive rebounds for each team were similar.
However, it's next to impossible to determine any single factor on which to hang the defeat -- it's usually a combination -- as San Jose State's defensive play was also subpar. The Spartans allowed the Highlanders to shoot 49% from the floor -- this after holding Washington to 41%. A slimmed-down-on-talent USC team earlier held Riverside to 43% shooting at the Galen Center while host New Mexico limited Highlander accuracy to 33%.
The bottomline: you do win and lose as a team. All cyclinders must be functioning at least close to capacity in order for potential to be realized and then hopefully maximized. That comes down to each individual consistently and positively performing his role game in and game out, figuring out what can be done and then doing so.