Men's basketball: Despite misses, Fresno State feeling at home against zone

The Fresno BeeFebruary 17, 2014 

The Fresno State Bulldogs had to weather a slow stretch at the offensive end of the floor before wrapping up their fifth consecutive men's basketball victory, beating Colorado State at the Save Mart Center.

They went more than nine minutes from the 11:51 mark of the second half with just three baskets after the Rams switched to zone from man, which is something the Bulldogs figure to see quite a bit of Tuesday when they try to extend their Mountain West Conference winning streak at Wyoming.

But the struggles with zone against Colorado State did not send up a red flag for coach Rodney Terry.

"We've done a good job a good job all year against zone," Terry said. "We got great looks, we just didn't make the shots. Usually, we make shots. Cezar (Guerrero) had two wide open uncontested 3's that he usually makes. We got great looks there. We're a good zone offensive team."

The Bulldogs (13-13, 6-7 in the MW) only makes in that stretch came on 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions by Tyler Johnson and a jumper by Guerrero. They missed six in a row at one point, as the Rams tried to close in. Colorado State trimmed a 15-point lead down to seven with 3:23 to go, but Alex Davis scored off a missed shot, then on a dunk one minute later and the Bulldogs were able to maintain a safe distance, closing out the game at the free-throw line.

But the pace was good; they moved the ball. There were positives there, if not points, Terry said. They will try to get and likely need both at Wyoming -- they did in the first matchup against the Cowboys on Jan. 29 at the Save Mart Center, a 67-62 victory that was the first of their five-game winning streak.

Fresno State hit 24 of 45 shots, its 53.3% the highest field-goal percentage Wyoming has allowed this season. And that was when Marvelle Harris was working his way out of a shooting slump in which he hit only 14 of 60 shots (23.3%) over five games, and Guerrero got himself into foul trouble that limited his time on the floor. The point guard got three shots and had one assist while playing only 15 minutes in that game -- he is averaging 31.1 per game in league play.

"We had some other guys step up in that game -- Alex Davis played really well in that game and obviously Tyler played really well," Terry said. "But we're going to need every guy. We're going to need every guy to come in and do what we need them to do, in terms of their job.

"They're a very good defensive team. They do a great job of getting back and setting their defense. They do a really good job with their help side defense, in the gaps. They force you to not settle. If you just come down and settle for shots and don't really work what you're trying to get done, it plays right into their hands. You have to be very decisive in what you want to do and how you want to attack, because they can lull you into taking some bad shots."

Added focus on Cowboys' Nance

The Bulldogs also will have to have some answers in defending forward Larry Nance Jr., who is taking a team-high 24.3% of the Cowboys shots in conference games while averaging 14.3 points per game.

Nance had 20 at Fresno State, but the Bulldogs were able to get him away from the basket for much of the second half. The 6-foot-8 junior scored only six of his points in the final 14 minutes and the Bulldogs had him taking jump shots including a 3-pointer. "We could live with that," Terry joked.

He has made only nine of 38 shots at the 3-point line this season (23.7%), including just three in conference games and only one over the past nine games.

"We treat him just like we treat (Deonte) Burton on Nevada," Terry said. "I think Burton is the hardest one-on-one guard on the perimeter in our league and I think Nance is the hardest one-on-one guard from 15 feet and in, in our league. It's going to be committee, by team, in terms of guarding him.

"He's just really hard to deal with. He's really athletic. He's gotten stronger and he's a difficult match from 15 feet in. I think he and (New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow), they're the two hardest to guard in our league from 15 feet in."

Bulldogs' Owootoah may play

Freshman point guard Emmanuel Owootoah, who did not dress for the Bulldogs' victory over Colorado State because of a right knee injury, could see some minutes at Wyoming.

It will be a game-time decision, but he is expected to go through a morning shoot-around and pre-game before a decision is made. "He's really close," Terry said.

Also ...

  • The Bulldogs' five wins in a row marks the longest active winning streak in the conference. They have not won six consecutive conference games since the 1993-'94 season when they won eight in a row.

  • Wyoming has won seven of the eight games in the series with Fresno State played at the Arena-Auditorium.

  • The Cowboys come in following a 46-38 victory at San Jose State in which they allowed only nine second-half points. The 38 points are the fewest Wyoming has ever allowed in a Mountain West game. They are allowing 59.6 points per game, second in the conference and 12th in Division in scoring defense.

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