By Lindsey Boyd (@lindsboyd3 ):
Three points and 3.8 seconds separated San Jose State men’s basketball from winning its first conference game of the season.
After eight lead changes, a missed buzzer-beater and 25 turnovers, the Spartans (3-19, 0-11 MW) let the game slip to the New Mexico Lobos (12-12, 7-4 MW), 71-68.
Taking the last three point shot into his own hands, Ryan Welage looked to tie the game with an open three from deep. Watching it bouncing off iron, he crumbled to the floor head in hands.
“I felt like it was going in, I knew it was going in,” said teammate Jaycee Hillsman. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall your way and that’s ok.”
Welage’s missed shot was only an item at the bottom of the grocery list of reasons the Spartans couldn’t close the win. Welly finished with 22 points but had eight of the team’s 25 giveaways stained his statline.
Remicent of the last time SJSU faced New Mexico, the Lobos went on a 11-0 run early in the first five minutes of the game.
New Mexico got ahead as much as 13 points, hitting five three-pointers and driving it in three times within the first 10 minutes.
Head coach Jean Prioleau and the Spartans put a halt to the Lobos early offense by scratching the zone and deciding to play man defense. After the adjustment, the game worked its way to two possessions and remained that way until the end.
“We basically started to play like them, you know we just attacked off the dribble,” Prioleau said. “Jaycee [Hillsman] is 6-foot-5, 220. It’s hard to stop him … so he was able to get some paint and some layups for us.”
Hillsman and Welage came alive in the last 10 minutes of the first half and never stopped shooting. The Simeon High School kid ended with his first double-double of the season, while pouring in a career-high 21 points and snatching 11 rebounds.
The Spartans won in field goals, free throws and rebounds but were stunted by the Lobos’ 11-35 three-point shooting.
UNM is one of the best teams in the conference at capitalizing off of turnovers, and it did that again tonight with 30 points off of SJSU’s 25 throwaways.
“It’s been our kryptonite all year,” Hillsman said of the turnovers. “It’s a tough pill to swallow especially when you know you’re that close and have 25 turnovers…”
Prioleau looked for three main things from his team: hold opponents to 40 percent (the Lobos shot 41.4%), take care of the ball (25 TOs) and be +8 on the boards (+24).
“We did two of the three things and one of the three really hurt us tonight,” Prioleau said.
SJSU will play Colorado State next on Saturday at 1p.m.