Sunday, January 24, 2010

San Jose State tops New Mexico State

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers and the assumption is he would protect an on-the-road basketball team based in, of all places, Las Cruces. But safe travel is an alternate universe away from weighing in on the outcome of a basketball game and such was quite apparent as the New Mexico State Aggies fell to San Jose State Saturday night 93-84 at Walt McPherson Court.

Mac Peterson led the scoring for San Jose State with 25 points on 6-8 three-point shooting, plus seven made free throws. His point total was a career high. Adrian Oliver was close by with 22. Jahmar Young led the southern Aggies with 34 points, also a career high. Jonathan Gibson contributed 19 but it took 20 shots for him to reach that total.

All Dickens references aside, it was the tale of two halves.

New Mexico State came out warm and evolved into hot as getting good and unattended looks at the basket produced a 41-32 halftime lead. The Aggies led 23-21 with 7:25 remaining and went on 16-point scoring run to widen the gap to 39-21. But the Spartans closed strong to reduce it to nine, with a late Peterson trey and an Oliver and-1 three-point play playing big factors.

What worked particularly well for Coach Marvin Menzies' squad in the initial 20 minutes was dribble-drive penetration by forward Wendell McKines, who would draw the attention of multiple defenders and then kick the ball out primarily to an open Young or Gibson. But for whatever reason or reasons, that element of the Aggie arsenal disappeared in the second half. It also appeared that New Mexico State didn't look much inside until 6 or so minutes remained in the first half.

As the game tightened in the second 20 minutes and with the Spartans pulling ahead, the Aggies seemingly ran their offensive sets less and less, relying more on individual efforts and quick shots.

But that took a while. Robert Owens gave San Jose State its first second half lead at 57-56 with a top-of-the-key trey at the 12:30 mark. A Gibson three-pointer then put New Mexico State back ahead. But SJSU retook the lead 61-60 on an Oliver three-pointer from the left corner.

With 6:53 left, Young scored an and-1 three-point play to bring the Aggies to within one at 68-67. Young later got another basket on a layup but the Spartans barraged the Aggies during that time period with a Justin Graham layup, a Peterson trey, a Chris Oakes dunk off a pass from Peterson and yet another Peterson three-pointer. The latter score made it 78-69 in favor of San Jose State with 4:40 on the clock.

Oakes was intentionally fouled by Hamidu Rahman at the 1:59 mark and made both free throws to set the score at 84-73.

After that, it was a Spartan parade to the foul line sandwiched around three Young treys.

Overall, SJSU shot 56.4% from the floor and went 12-20 from long distance. New Mexico State took 16 more shots but made three less and ended up at 39.4% for the game. 38 of the Aggies 71 shot attempts were three-pointers.

San Jose State was credited with 23 assists.

The excellent Spartan shooting, especially in the second half, was the result of very solid spacing and crisp passing in the frontcourt.

NMSU did win the turnover battle, 15 to 6. The Aggies utilized a three-quarter court press for most of the game, gaining some turnovers but the outcome more a whittling away of the time on the Spartan shooting clock.

Remarkably, San Jose State scored 61 second half points (to 43 for New Mexico State), close to doubling its first 20 minute total.

Here are the post game quotes:

From Coach George Nessman:

“New Mexico State has as much firepower as any team we’ve played this year. In the first half, they were really playing well. What we told our guys (at halftime) was, ‘We’re not playing very well. We just need to change our mindset. We’re not as positive as we need to be. We need to be more positive – go out there and compete and play. Let’s control how well we’re playing.’

I thought the second half was much better. We did a much better job attack their zone and
getting in the lane against them which was a big factor. I though Mac Peterson had a big
second-half and a great overall game. He’s been having those for a while. It’s not particularly unusual for Mac.

It was a good win for us, and an important win for us.

(On Robert Owens’ 2nd half): We tell our players good and great players have to have short memories. You worry about what just happened and then you go forward. You didn’t become a bad shooter because you missed shots in the first half. That’s not how it works. When you are a senior and Robert was third in the conference in three-point shooting percentage last year, you’ve got to believe he’ll make his three’s. He obviously did and made some big ones for us.

We couldn’t find a defense to guard them (New Mexico State) in the first half. We tried a number of different things and couldn’t find anything successful.

(On Adrian Oliver’s slow start offensively): “He took four or five off-balance shots in a row. You’re in one of your zones right now where you throw it at the rim and it goes in. You’ve got to get back to fundamental play. Get your feet set, act with more purpose and, I think, we started seeing that. It was good to start the game, but after that point, he really started playing. Everybody needs a little reminder of what it is that makes a successful player. You have to be on balance. When he’s mortal like the rest of us, he has to set his feet the right way and I just reminded him of that.

(On the 2nd half shooting): “First of all, this team can really shoot the three. We have three guys that are 40 percent-plus. That’s set up also by Justin (Graham) driving the ball against their zone in the second half and punching it in there. In the first half, we were not driving very effectively. We were moving the ball around the perimeter and not getting as good a look. The second half, we were much more aggressive going forward and those things open up more. We have some pretty good shooters if they are open.”

From Coach Marvin Menzies:

“Great job by George (Nessman) and his crew. They really shot the ball extremely well in the second half. They had a lot of confidence.

I tell my guys I hate to play teams with three or four seniors on it, because they’re not going to give up. You have to give them all the credit. You can’t make excuses about the Hawaii trip and legs being tired. At the end of the day, they had a great home swing beating both La Tech and New Mexico State, which only had one loss. You have to give them all the credit.

We have no excuses. They just outplayed us. They were very efficient offensively in the second half. As a result, we have to settle for the split.

They have the talent. They were hitting the 3-ball at a clip tonight like they can win it all….On a serious note, they shoot the ball very well at home. They’re very tough at home. I want to commend the hometown crowd. It was an excellent turnout. It was the best turnout since I’ve been coming here for sure. The fans did a very good job of helping them rally. You need to give credit to the sixth man that exists here in San Jose.

From Chris Oakes:

(On the team’s shooting): “Those guys (Owens and Peterson) shoot a lot of jumpers. They work on their shooting. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to see them do that. It’s what they do. They’re tremendous scorers.

“I think we came out with the mindset these last couple of games with confidence knowing we can compete with any team on any given night.

“Our motion offense allows a lot of different looks. It just depends on how the defensive pattern is. They pay a lot of attention to Adrian. Often times, the gaps are open and Justin Graham does a great job of finding open guys.

(On the first half): “We got a little rattled. We were careless with the ball. We weren’t playing our game. We turned the ball over a lot. At halftime, we discussed what we needed to do to get this win. Once we calmed down, took care of the ball and valued the ball, we found open guys.”

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