GAME NOTES: The San Jose State Spartans hope to push their win streak to five in a row tonight, as they kick off the new calendar year with a Mountain West Conference meeting with the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Since losing to Weber State at the end of November, the Spartans have rattled off four consecutive victories and were undefeated in the month of December as a result. The most recent outing for SJSU versus Pacifica last Saturday turned into an 87-59 final, lifting the Spartans to .500 for the first time this season.
As for the Wolf Pack, they are heading in the opposite direction right now, losing three of the last four games. Over the weekend, the team bowed to Long Beach State in overtime, 80-77, dropping the squad three games below .500 as the conference slate begins. Nevada closed out 2013 with the worst record among MWC programs.
Now ahead in the series by a count of 51-47, Nevada has won 11 straight and 21 of the last 22 matchups with the Spartans. The most recent victory for SJSU was a narrow 62-60 decision at home in early 2008.
Four starters scored in double figures for Nevada as it hosted LBSU, but even that was not good enough as the Pack came up short in overtime. Jerry Evans logged a double-double with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, followed by Deonte Burton with 19 points, seven boards and five assists, but the latter also turned the ball over six times and shot a dismal 4-of-17 from the floor, including 0-of-8 behind the 3-point line. Cole Huff pitched in with 16 points and Michael Perez 11, to go along with six boards and six assists for a team that suffered 18 miscues and connected on only 5-of-23 attempts out on the perimeter.
Burton, a career 15.8 ppg scorer who will be one of the most notable performers in Nevada history when all is said and done, is currently putting up 22.5 ppg as one of the top scorers in the country, but he is shooting just 33.3 percent beyond the arc. Evans (15.3 ppg) is not only a better perimeter shooter with 41.9 percent accuracy, he is also first on the glass for the Pack with 6.2 rpg.
The defense for San Jose State was all over Pacifica, holding the visitor to just 28.4 percent shooting from the floor, although it must be noted that the Gladiators used just a single reserve on the afternoon. The Spartans spread the wealth as Rashad Muhammad scored 19 points to lead five players in double figures as he converted 5-of-10 shots beyond the arc. Jaleel Williams registered a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, followed by Chris Cunningham and Devante Wilson with 13 points apiece and Matt Pollard 10 and seven boards in just 14 minutes off the bench.
The lopsided win for the Spartans over the weekend was more the exception than the norm and you need to look no further than the team's 72.7 ppg on the campaign, compared to 72.0 ppg for the competition. Muhammad accounts for 17.3 ppg, shooting 44.7 percent from long range, followed by Williams (11.8 ppg) and Wilson (10.1 ppg) as the duo combines for clear almost 11 rebounds per outing, although both are also shooting under 40 percent from the floor at the moment. As a team, SJSU comes in at just 39.9 percent from the field through 12 games.
The Pack is defined by Evans and Burton, so if one of them has a bad game chances are Nevada is coming out on the wrong end of the decision. As long as the Spartans can keep them in check they'll have a good chance at coming away with the win tonight.
Game Date and Time