Fresno State had its issues at the offensive end in a 77-65 loss at Cal Poly on Saturday night, failing to attack the zone and make shots through the first half and for stretches in the second. But for a team that is built around its defensive effort and counts on it to get out in transition and set up the offense, what transpired at that end of the floor had to be most concerning for coach Rodney Terry as the Bulldogs missed on a chance to open 7-1 for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
In a game that had the fewest possessions per 40 minutes of the eight that the Bulldogs have played, Cal Poly put up 77 points, just one off the season-high allowed in a 78-73 loss at Oregon.
Fresno State forced a season-low 10 turnovers, had a season-low three steals and the Mustangs hit 50 percent of their shots (22 of 44), a season-high allowed. The steals have steadily gone down since the start of the season, from 15 in the opener against Pepperdine to 10, 7, 6, 5, 4, 4 and 3 at Cal Poly.
The Bulldogs, Terry said, need to find a better effort defensively.
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“We’re going to have to,” he said. “We’ve shown we can do it. We haven’t been consistent doing it for a better part of the season, but we’ve shown over stretches in games that we can do it.”
A repeat when Fresno State plays at No. 19 Arizona on Wednesday likely would produce a similar and perhaps more unsightly result. Cal Poly too often got what it wanted.
“They attacked on their terms. We just have to do a better job because we’re at our best when we’re able to get stops and we’re able to play in transition, we’re able to get some transition baskets,” Terry said. “Playing 5 on 5 is the hardest thing to do in college basketball. We have to be able to get stops, play to our strength where we can get out and run and that doesn’t give the teams the opportunity to get their defense set. When you have to go 5 on 5 every possession down, even the best teams struggle doing that, especially early in the year. That’s hard to do.”
What happened – There were things that Fresno State needed to get done to get a win on the road at Cal Poly and the Bulldogs checked almost nothing off the list.
And for a second road game in a row, they started miserably, missing their first five shots and hitting only 28.1 percent in the first half. They were marginally better in the second half, but their inability to string together productive possessions stunted any attempt to cut into a double-digit deficit.
Fresno State (6-2) hit just 34.8 percent of its shots, a season low. The Bulldogs had come in averaging 78.0 points per game and had hit 80 in four of their first seven games, the 65 points also a season low.
Cezar Guerrero led the Bulldogs with 15 points, hitting 5 of 9 shots including 3 of 6 at the three-point line. Torren Jones added 13 and Marvelle Harris, who came in averaging 20.0 per game, had a season-low 12 points. Harris made only 5 of his 20 shots including 1 of 10 from the three-point line.
Attacking zone – The Bulldogs have seen plenty of it this season, but in the first half did not attack it very well, settling for jump shots that obviously were not going in. Paint touches? There weren’t many of them – Fresno State scored only four points there in the first half.
“We’ve played seven games already and probably six of those games have been against zone,” Terry said. “I told our guys, we’re going to see a lot of zone all year long. That’s just the norm right now in terms of what we’re facing. We’ve always had success against these guys doing a lot of the things that we opened the game doing, in terms of trying to play downhill and not settle for jump shots.
“We had a couple of times where we got the ball into the paint with a post feed or a drive, but not as consistently as we really wanted to. But don’t take anything away from these guys – this is their best team since I’ve been here and their deepest team since I’ve been here, so you have to give them credit, too. I’m not going to act like it was just us.”
The shooting, in large part, though, was the Bulldogs.
“I just feel like we didn’t come out as aggressive as we needed to,” Guerrero said. “We settled for shots, but for the most part eventually we’re going to hit shots. We practice on zone so much, the zone offense, but we just have to make shots and today wasn’t our day.”
Et cetera – The Bulldogs did outrebound Cal Poly 41-38, including 18 at the offensive end. Fresno State has out-rebounded all eight of its opponents this season.
▪ The 12 points for Harris is a season low. The last time he scored fewer than 12 points was in the Bulldogs’ loss to Colorado State at the Mountain West Conference Tournament last season. He was 1 of 10 in that game, held to just four points.
▪ The Cal Poly bench outscored the Bulldogs’ bench 36-17. Guerrero hit 5 of 9 shots and 3 of 6 from the three-point line. Over the past six games he has hit 25 of 49 shots (51 percent) and 18 of 36 at the three-point line.
▪ The Bulldogs play at Arizona on Wednesday. The Wildcats are 7-1 and will go in off a 68-63 victory at Gonzaga.
▪ In the first half of the Bulldogs’ past two road games, at Oregon and at Cal Poly, they have hit only 9 of 31 (29.0 percent) and 9 of 32 shots (28.1 percent). “I think it’s as simple as just not making shots,” Guerrero said. “With the offense that coach Terry and coach (Kenton) Paulino gives us, we get the shots. It’s just us making them. Sometimes the outcome doesn’t go our way. Make shots, and it’s a whole different outcome. When we make shots, we’re a pretty hard team to beat. We just have to keep at it in the gym.”
▪ Harris with 12 points now has 1,458 in his career and ranks eighth on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list.
▪ Fresno State had hit better than 40 percent of its shots in five consecutive games coming in, after struggling in the first two. The Bulldogs have not hit less than 30 percent in a game since a 75-53 loss at San Diego State on Feb. 9, 2013. They were 17 of 58 (29.3 percent) in that game.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Off to the desert
FRESNO STATE AT NO. 19 ARIZONA
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. in Tucson
- Records: Bulldogs 6-2, Wildcats 7-1
- TV/radio: Pac-12 Network (Comcast channel 434)/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Wildcats, just inside the AP Top 20 poll for Week 4 (Nov. 30), rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off No. 13 Gonzaga 68-63 on Saturday in Spokane, Wash.