San Jose State picked up its 16th win of the season after completing the sweep against UNLV Tuesday night. This is the most wins the Spartans have seen since the 2010-11 season when they finished 17-16.
“I’m just so happy for these guys who were here last year after such a difficult season,” head coach Tim Miles said after the 75-66 victory.
San Jose State used to be a team that was often found at the bottom of the Mountain West, but the Spartans have been exceeding expectations. They are fifth in the conference at 7-6 and 16-10 overall.
Many didn’t see it coming as the Spartans were selected to finish 10th out of 11 in the Mountain West preseason poll. Last season the team won just one conference game. However, Miles gave everyone a warning last March.
“Enjoy it while it lasts because we are going to get bigger, stronger and better,” he told opponents after San Jose State’s season came to an end against Fresno State in the first round of the conference tournament.
His Spartans had just taken the Bulldogs to overtime, but San Jose State’s dream of an upset fell short with a 69-67 defeat. Miles’ words afterward ignited a fire in his team.
“Getting on social media after and hearing coach Miles say that, it ramped me up,” Omari Moore said. “I was like, I’m ready for the next season already. It was motivating for me for sure.”
In 2021, Miles took over a program that went 20-93 over the last four seasons before his arrival. The Spartans showed improvement during his first year at the helm, but their 8-23 record was still less than ideal. They experienced some bumps in the road including injuries to Moore — their top offensive player — and their leading defender Ibrahima Diallo.
“The way that things ended last year, we all knew internally that was going to set a fire,” Moore said. “Nobody wanted to feel that again, so I knew we weren’t going to be at the bottom (this season). And then, you don’t know what to think coming in from summer, but getting with everybody in the fall and seeing how we practice, I definitely had high expectations for us.”
Caught up with @SanJoseStateMBB’s Omari Moore. The Spartans have exceeded expectations under Tim Miles @CoachMiles, but they’re not settling and still have more goals to achieve.@omari_moore13: “It’s important for us to make some sort of postseason tournament.” pic.twitter.com/x5vsfnIlIM— Isabel Gonzalez (@cisabelg) February 10, 2023
The 6-foot-6-inch guard worked out with a few NBA teams at the conclusion of his 2021-22 campaign but decided to return to SJSU for his senior year. San Jose State is one of those programs that sometimes lands overlooked talent, but those top players often leave for bigger basketball programs. Memphis Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke started his career with the Spartans before he became a star at Gonzaga.
Moore said one of the main reasons he stayed was that he wanted to finish his degree at San Jose State. He also had a feeling of unfinished business and trusted the Spartans’ coaching staff to guide his team to a stronger season.
Moore is averaging 17.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. In January, he became the 16th player in school history to score 1,000 points. After the UNLV game, he has 1,145 career points, the ninth-most in SJSU men’s basketball history.
It has been a good season for him personally, but he also has goals he wants to accomplish with his team. Even though the Spartans have already exceeded expectations, Moore and his teammates are nowhere near satisfied.
“As a team I think it’s important for us to make some sort of postseason tournament,” he said. “Whether that’s winning the Mountain West Tournament and making it to the NCAA, or getting enough wins to make the NIT or CBI… That’s the goal that we came up with before the season started, and we are still trying to do that right now.”