RENO, Nev. — Just inside of nine minutes to play Wednesday night, it appeared Deonte Burton was going to put a rough start behind him and take off as he had last month when the Wolf Pack beat Fresno State in double overtime.
The Nevada guard had missed shots, turned over the ball a couple of times and missed free throws, seven in a row at one point. But then he started going to the rim and pulled Nevada into a tie with the Bulldogs, where they had not been often to that point in the second half.
Burton scored on back-to-back basket possessions. But the Bulldogs didn't flinch. They turned him back from there, kept the ball out of his hands when they could, shut down some drives and gradually pulled away to their fourth consecutive win, a 75-67 victory on Wednesday at the Lawlor Events Center.
"He started coming on there a little bit," Bulldogs men's basketball coach Rodney Terry said. "He's the hardest one-on-one guard in our league. You're not going to completely shut out a great player like him, we just hope you can contain him and I thought we did that for 20 minutes. I thought we came back in the second half.
"It was pretty much by committee in terms of guarding him. It's a hard guard for 40 minutes to have to guard a guy like him, who can get in there in a variety of ways and get aggressive attacking the basket."
Burton, as Terry said, is a tough guard. He came in leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring and had scored a league-high 27.9% of his team's points. In the first matchup, Jan. 22 at the Save Mart Center, he had 32, including 21 in the second half and overtimes.
He got 14 in this one — and the Bulldogs' guards were the difference. Fresno State (12-13, 5-7 MW) went back up with 7:35 to play when Tanner Giddings hit the first of two free throws and then, after Burton missed a contested 3-pointer, and on a drive the Bulldogs' next trip down the floor, freshman Paul Watson hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 63-57.
Marvelle Harris hit a pair of free throws, and Watson scored on a follow and then on another 3-pointer. Down the stretch, Cezar Guerrero hit six free throws. Allen Huddleston hit one of two.
And they all, for the most part, kept the ball away from Burton.
"That was a group effort," said Tyler Johnson, who defended the Nevada senior before turning his right ankle late in the first half. "When he came up to Fresno, he really put it on us. Everybody had a chance to guard him. [Huddleston] went after him in the second half and Cezar really stepped up.
"I was really impressed and happy for him with the way he sat down and guarded because the knock on him is always that he can put it in the basket but he can't guard. But he just went up against one of the top players in the league and pretty much held him in check for a good part of that second half."
Down the stretch, where Burton had really hurt the Bulldogs in the first meeting, he didn't get many opportunities to make a dent in the Bulldogs, who have won four conference games in a row for the first time since 2006-07. In the final 8:09, Burton scored two points — from the line.
"Time and situation. When he's away from the ball, maybe you front him and play four on four for a minute," Johnson said. "I've seen it done a lot of times. I've seen it on TV; it's happened to me before. You get away from the ball, maybe they give it up, and you don't allow that person to get it back.
"Make somebody else can make a play and see if they can make enough plays to beat you as opposed to someone who has proven that they can beat you."
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