The SJSU men’s hoops team did not take a lead in Saturday night’s game against Sacramento State until the 9:35 mark of the second half but it did not look back once it found itself ahead.
“When you’ve been losing the whole game and you finally overcome, that point in the game where you take the lead is kind of a relief and a confidence booster,” said forward Chris Cunningham, who led all players with 17 rebounds. “It definitely helped us pick up and told us ‘Let’s really take care of business now, let’s end this game.’”
The Spartans outscored the Hornets 22-17 from that point on to claim the 62-57 win, the team’s third win in a row.
SJSU out-rebounded Sacramento State 59-34, including 24-12 on the offensive glass, but were unable to capitalize on many second-chance possession throughout the game, narrowly outscoring the Hornets 9-8 on second-chance points.
“When you get 24 offensive rebounds, you should convert a lot of those into points — 9 points on second chance and that’s not enough,” said coach George Nessman. “You can’t play artfully every game out. You have to be able to win a variety of wins if you’re going to be a good team and I think through these first games this season we’re starting to show that.”
The Spartans’ leading scorer James Kinney, who sat for 10 minutes of the first half with two personal fouls, led the SJSU comeback in the second half. Kinney scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and hit the go-ahead three-point shot to give SJSU its lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Guard D.J. Brown scored all of his seven points in the second half and converted seven of eight free throw attempts in the final two minutes to help seal the Spartan victory.
SJSU trailed 28-22 heading into halftime and Nessman said his message to team during the break was no remain focused on the game and to not let frustration get in the way.
“Mental challenge of don’t get frustrated, don’t get caught up in what just happened,” Nessman said, “pick something from it and just go forward, that’s all you can do. We did not play well in the first half but don’t come into the locker room and fret about it. Be resolved to go out there and play better and I think our guys got behind that spirit.”
SJSU played tough on the glass in the first half but was plagued by poor shooting and inability to capitalize on offensive rebounds. SJSU shot 25 percent from the floor in the first half while the Hornets outscored the Spartans 6-5 in second-chance points despite being out-rebounded 12-6 on the offensive glass.
Sacramento State saw its largest lead of the first half at the 10:52 mark. The Hornets finished a 11-0 run to make the score 20-8, causing those missed opportunities of converting offensive rebounds hurt even more for the Spartans.
“We weren't putting enough effort,” said guard Louis Garrett. “We’re accustomed to playing a style with a certain amount of energy and we felt that we didn’t have that in the first half.”
The Spartans’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday night against Santa Clara University.