RENO — The first time around, Fresno State had a difficult time with Nevada guard Deonte Burton, whom coach Rodney Terry called the toughest player to defend one-on-one in the Mountain West.
The leading scorer in the conference at 20.7 points per game, Burton got to the rim much too easily and knocked down his jump shots. He hit 14 of 20 and scored 32 points when Nevada beat the Bulldogs in double-overtime at the Save Mart Center. The 70% shooting was not a career high, but it highlights the problems Fresno State had trying to defend the 6-foot-1 senior.
But the larger issue for the Bulldogs in that loss might have been Cole Huff, who scored 31 points for the Wolf Pack and will along with an array of secondary scoring options have to be much more of a focal point on Wednesday when the Bulldogs try to extend their winning streak in conference play to four games.
"We know we have to go into this game and do a great job to limit his open looks," Terry said. "We have to try to do a good job trying to be physical with (A.J.) West. West is a physical rebounder in there and the last game we played he was a real good shot blocker. (Michael) Perez, going into that game, was their second-leading scorer, so we know Perez is a weapon as well. (Jerry) Evans has really improved as well as an offensive player. He made some critical plays, too."
Nevada has four players averaging 10 or more points per game and has had six as a second-leading scorer in a game including Burton, who has led the team in scoring in 17 of 25 games.
But Huff almost doubled his career high in scoring in that victory over the Bulldogs -- he had 16 in a loss to Long Beach State and again in a victory over Utah State. He is averaging 11.9 points per game this season.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore hit 6 of 10 shots at the 3-point line, 11 of 19 overall. In the five games since then he has a total of six made 3-pointers, getting two in a loss at Wyoming, one each in victories over Colorado State and Air Force and losses at Utah State and San Diego State.
"Obviously, second time around we know exactly who we're playing in terms of personnel," Terry said. "It's a big personnel game. You have to know who you're guarding out there. I think our staff has done a good job all year long in preparation for the guys, now we just have to carry it over out on the floor.
"He'd shown he a capable guy, but not to that extent. We gave him a career day. He had a career day on us. But you have to give him credit. He made shots. We know he's a pick and pop guy and a guy capable of making shots, making open shots, so we have to be there and we have to do a good job of contesting his shots and limiting his open looks."
Clamping down on defense
The Bulldogs go into the game at Nevada coming off of their two best games defensively by possession in conference play, allowing 0.90 points per possession in routing San Jose State 82-56 and 0.73 in winning at the Force 68-51 before that.
The Spartans took a ton of jump shots and made no concerted effort to exploit the Bulldogs' interior defense and the Falcons were without leading scorer Tre Coggins, but to Terry there is more to it.
"I think our guys are playing harder on defense," he said. "We're playing harder. We've had a better effort on defense in terms of urgency and understanding certain actions and who we're guarding.
"I think that's helped a lot. I think our awareness and our alertness in terms of who we're guarding is getting better. We've improved in terms of our mental preparation. That's experience and guys getting some experience and understanding our preparation -- I better know what we're doing, how we're guarding actions, who we're guarding."
Freshman point guard Emanuel Owootoah, who tweaked his right knee in the Bulldogs' victory over San Jose State, remains day to day. His status against the Wolf Pack will be made before the game.
- Nevada is 4-1 in conference play at the Lawlor Events Center.
- Fresno State and Nevada both have played five overtime games this season including the Jan. 22 matchup at the Save Mart Center, tying the Mountain West record. Three of the past four games between the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack have been decided in overtime.
- The Wolf Pack had 12 blocks in the first meeting, eight by West. That is the most by a team in a conference game this season and the most for Nevada since it has 12 in a 2008 game against Sonoma State.
- Fresno State has won three consecutive conference games for the first time since 2009-'10 when it was in the Western Athletic Conference and beat Boise State, Hawaii and San Jose State to open league play. It has not won four in a row since the 2006-'07 season.
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