Rams ready to shake off Aztecs loss following their bye week

Luke Zahlmann

There’s only one team left in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball circuit that has yet to win a game: San Jose State.

Despite a single-digit loss at the hands of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in their most recent contest, the Spartans are not going unnoticed by Coach Niko Medved.

Ad

“A couple bounces go (the Spartans) way, they probably beat UNLV,” Medved said. “We know they’re going to play well and play hard… you gotta expect it to be a tough ball game.”

The biggest problem for the Spartans this year has been their youth.

“We’re on a two-game losing streak right now, So we don’t need to overlook anyone. We need to (go) in and be hungry and I think we’re hungry right now. We’re ready to play.” Kris Martin

The Spartans rank dead last in the conference in both scoring (64.6 points per game) and scoring defense (79.4 points allowed per game). Those marks are buoyed by seven underclassmen on the roster.

Though they have battled typical youthful woes, Medved saw consistent improvement.

“You look at their team, they’ve been playing a ton of young guys all year,” Medved said. “You can see them getting better and better.”

The leader of the novice crowd for Coach Jean Prioleau is sophomore Noah Baumann, a 6-foot-5 guard from Phoenix, Arizona.

This season, the former Desert Vista High School standout scored 9.8 points per game, good for the third-highest mark on the team. In his 20 starts, Baumann also racked up 56 makes from beyond the arc, the top tally on the roster.

The team’s top-scoring average, class notwithstanding, is big-man-transfer Michael Steadman who began his collegiate career at City College of San Francisco. Last year, prior to his move, Steadman averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

With the Spartans, his averages have risen to 13 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. His size, along with five other players eclipsing 6-foot-9, is something the Rams see as a challenge, including the conference’s leading big man, Nico Carvacho.

“They like to play inside a lot,” Carvacho said. “We’ve got to ice the ball screens, make sure they don’t get downhill… I like having a challenge, it’s fun, helps me play better.”

Ad

As a counter to the Spartans’ size, Carvacho will be relied upon similarly to previous matchups against tall teams this year. 

Nico Carvacho attempts to push past a Wolfpack guard during the game against No. 6 Nevada Feb. 6. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

In total, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award finalist accumulated a nation-leading 13 boards per game with a 15.9 points per game scoring average. Carvacho is also the program’s leading all-time rebounder after passing Pat Durham in the team’s last game against San Diego State.

With a decisive advantage in talent as shown by their respective records this year, the Rams are in position, on the road, for a costly upset if they overlook the Spartans. With the second iteration of the Border War on Saturday, the task of staying focused on their latest opponent is heightened.

Sitting at ninth in the MW, the Rams know they’re in no position to look ahead.

“We’re on a two-game losing streak right now,” Kris Martin said. “So we don’t need to overlook anyone. We need to (go) in and be hungry and I think we’re hungry right now. We’re ready to play.”

The thirst for the team comes after a bye week—their first since the second week of January. Though they weren’t able to knock off their latest loss last weekend, the lack of a game helped the Rams recoup.

“I think (the bye week) refreshed us a little bit,” Martin said. “We got a little time to get our bodies right, relax, take care of things off the court and now we’re back; we’re ready to go.”

The Rams will travel to the SJSU Event Center for a Wednesday night bout with the Spartans which will be broadcasted on the Mountain West Network. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.