SAN JOSE -- San Jose State's leading scorer, James Kinney, is suspended for the season, and the Spartans' hopes of competing the rest of the way might be in similar jeopardy.
The senior guard missed his eighth straight game on Friday, and San Jose State lost its eighth straight, scoring a season-low point total in a 63-36 defeat to Utah State before 1,876 at the Event Center.
Spartans coach George Nessman confirmed after the game that Kinney's suspension for violating team policies will last through the remainder of the season. The violation hasn't been specified, but it is believed to be related to academics.
Kinney hasn't played since a Jan. 8 victory over New Orleans. At the time, the Spartans were 9-6 overall, and their 3-1 record in the Western Athletic Conference was their best start in their 17 years in the conference. The drop-off since then has been significant.
"It's affected our team in powerful ways," Nessman said. "When you have a player who's an elite scorer, the game gets easier for everybody else. And now the game's harder on everybody else.
"Coaches are fond of saying, 'I'm going to coach the guys I have,' and that's what I'm doing. I have no choice. But you can't ignore the elephant in the room. It's obvious. It doesn't take much for people to look and say, 'Hmm, when did they start struggling?' "
SJSU (9-14, 3-9 WAC) is averaging just 49.8 points since the suspension, nearly 14 below its season average.
Kinney's 20.6 points over his 14 games led the team and would rank him 12th in the nation if he had played enough to qualify. He was eighth in the nation when his suspension began.
Kinney also missed a December loss to James Madison when he was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
With the 6-foot-2 native of Champaign, Ill., in the lineup, SJSU is 9-5 this season. The Spartans are now 0-9 without him.
"During a college basketball season, there's always going to be ups and downs, and it's really about how you respond to adversity," junior forward Chris Cunningham said. "Up to this point, we haven't responded very well."
D.J. Brown hit two 3-pointers Friday that gave SJSU a 9-6 lead less than four minutes into the game. The Spartans scored only seven more points the rest of the half.
Utah State (17-5, 8-4) scored nine in a row after Brown's two 3s. After that spurt was interrupted by a basket from SJSU's Xavier Jones, the Aggies rattled off a 16-0 run.
The Spartans finally snapped a scoreless streak that spanned 8 minutes, 21 seconds when Brown hit another 3. He had 11 points in the first half, which ended with Utah State leading 34-16.
Spencer Butterfield was unstoppable for Utah State. The junior guard recorded his fifth straight double-double with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Butterfield and company added to the lead in the second half, leading by as much as 28 points. The Spartans never pulled closer than the 16 in the final 20 minutes.
Brown finished with 16 points to lead SJSU. Cunningham, the team's second-leading scorer behind Kinney, had 10 points and nine rebounds.
San Jose State shot only 26.5 percent from the field, while the Aggies made 51.9 percent of their shots.
Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.
New Mexico State (16-8, 10-2) at San Jose State (9-14, 3-9), 7 p.m. No TV