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SJSU falls to Wyoming on a buzzer-beater after conceding a 17-point lead

SJSU falls to Wyoming on a buzzer-beater after conceding a 17-point lead


SJSU’s defense continues to prove costly


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The buzzer-beater that was equal parts cruel and ironic

There was a cruel irony to Wyoming guard Akuel Kot’s step back buzzer-beater to stun San Jose State, 75-73, to improve to 8-6.

It was one of the Spartans best defensive possessions of the second half. Who are now 0-1 in Mountain West play and 7-7 overall.

SJSU point guard Alvaro Cardenas was step-for-step with Kot, wasn’t deterred by any flashy dribble moves and was a hair away from blocking the shot. Unfortunately, that sliver of space was all Kot needed to send the Spartans back home in heartbreak. 

 

But don’t feel too bad for SJSU. The Spartans once led by 17 points and entered the second half up by 12 points. Moving forward, will SJSU’s shaky defense stand in the way of it making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time ever? Furthermore, following the Spartans’ disappointing conference opener, one must wonder: Can SJSU compete in the Mountain West without an NIL presence?

According to the SF Chronicle, Wyoming is one of seven Mountain West teams to have a collective that has “reported annual NIL budgets for men’s basketball over $400,000.” Miles, meanwhile, watched recruits immediately “wig out” on Zoom calls when he mentioned he couldn’t offer NIL money. 

And it wasn’t just recruits – it was Spartans’, too.

Former SJSU center and 2022-23 Mountain West blocks leader Ibrahima Diallo “transferred to Central Florida this past June for $160,000 in NIL money,” according to that same SF Chronicle article.

If Diallo stayed, would the Cowboys have outscored SJSU in the paint 36-20 and allow seven-footer Oleg Kojenets to go for 18 points (5-for-12 from the field)? What about if SJSU could use NIL to lure recruits in the transfer portal, would Wyoming have gone 23-for-25 (93%) from the line? 

At times, SJSU seemed incapable of stopping Cowboy guard Sam Griffin, who scored a floor-high 23 points. His explosive blow by drives were just too much. 

Now one game into conference play, there’s an added pressure for SJSU’s inexperienced frontcourt of freshman forward Diogo “DJ” Seixas (three points and zero rebounds), sophomore forward William Humer (seven points and three rebounds) and sophomore Washington State transfer Adrame Diongue (two points and one rebound) to improve. 

Just a few games ago, following an 86-75 loss to Montana, Miles said, “We just got hurt inside but that’s not new news.”

The problem is SJSU must find a way to make it old news. The consequence is just too costly. SJSU has now surrendered multiple late leads. Which now makes a quote Miles gave after SJSU conceded a late-lead to Cal Poly in November feel hauntingly prophetic.

“You hope it’s not a symptom of a larger problem in the program or an unwillingness to build on a lead and play the type of defense necessary to win tough-minded games,” he said. 

Now at 7-7, SJSU must win nine of its remaining 17 conference games to be eligible to notch that prized CBI bid. Mind you, 12 of those 17 games come against teams with a higher NET ranking. 

The problem with Tuesday night’s blown lead is how easy it is to forget all the good. 

Like in the first half when SJSU point guard Ricky Mitchell soared in for a put back, blocked a shot on the other end and snapped a pass to Tibet Gorener (16 points, 3-for-5 from deep) for a three to put SJSU up 31-18. A string of plays that illustrated everything SJSU needs to bounce back; unrelenting energy from the second rotation; rim protection; timely three-point shooting. 

That Gorener three-pointer came in a first half where SJSU shot a sturdy 18-for-35 from the field and 9-for-18 from three to go up 47-35 heading into the second half.

Not to mention Cardenas’ brilliance. That final possession shouldn’t distract from him scoring 21 points on a stellar 8-for-13 mark from the field and 4-for-5 clip from three. Without Gorener and Cardenas’ clutch shooting, Wyoming might not have needed a buzzer-beater to down SJSU. 

Plus, SJSU forward Trey Anderson scored 10 points in his return to the starting lineup after missing a few games due to a knee sprain. 

But offensive production only goes so far with a defense that struggles to close games. 

All the Spartans can do now is hope to rally back against Boise State in its conference home-opener this Friday night at 7:30.

Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire