Photo credit: @AnaKieu
By: Ana Kieu
LAS VEGAS — Coming off an appalling season, 11th seed San Jose State played in their fifth Mountain West Tournament Wednesday as they opened play against 6-seed Air Force in the Thomas & Mack Center.
SJSU’s starting five featured Michael Steadman, Zach Chappell, Noah Baumann, Seneca Knight, and Ashtin Chastain.
SJSU opened the scoring with a 13-0 run, thanks to Knight, Baumann, and Chappell. Knight hit back-to-back 3s, Baumann hit a 3 and made a jumper, and Chappell made a jumper. Chris Joyce made a jumper in the paint and a free throw to end the Spartans’ run. Still, the Spartans led 13-3 at the 16:25 mark, and Baumann broke the school record for most 3-point baskets made in a season with 79.
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair between SJSU and Air Force. Chastain made a jumper in the paint to extend the Spartans’ lead to 15-3, but Joyce and Lavelle Scottie made back-to-back jumpers. Not only that, Scottie and Caleb Morris hit back-to-back 3s to bring the Falcons within 2 points at the 11:40 mark.
Shortly after, Ameka Akaya made a jumper to tie the game 15-15 at the 10:01 mark. Ryan Swan followed up with a 3 to give Air Force their first lead of the night, 18-15, with 8:57 left. Baumann made a jumper to bring SJSU within 1 just 54 seconds later. But the Falcons went on a 10-0 run to stump the Spartans, who trailed 28-17 with 5:44 left.
SJSU picked up the pace, thanks to Baumann, Steadman, and Knight, and cut the deficit to 32-23 with 2:43 left. Knight made a layup in the paint to trim the deficit to 8 just 62 seconds later. Chastain hit a 3 with only 3 seconds remaining. However, the Spartans were unable to recover the lead, so the efforts of the starting five were attention-grabbers, but not game-changers.
SJSU trailed 36-28 at the halftime break.
SJSU opened the second half with a 3 by Chappell, but the Air Force shooting was pretty hot. The Spartans never got re-energized like @SJSUMBB suggested at halftime and the Falcons used a 17-2 run to extend their lead to 22 points at the 11:34 mark. Joyce upped his point total to 17, which was a new career-high.
SJSU trailed 75-49 at the final timeout with 3:52 left. Air Force put on a dribbling exhibition for the final minutes of the game to close things out.
SJSU lost to Air Force 87-56. The Spartans were eliminated from the Mountain West Tournament, while the Falcons advanced to the quarterfinals against the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Falcons vs. Bulldogs game will be played Thursday at 8:30 pm PST on the CBS Sports Network.
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