Fresno State had its leading scorer, Paul Watson. Wyoming, for extended stretches, did not.
In fact, not its first or its second. But the Bulldogs, and Watson in particular, had a lot to do with that.
While the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-7 senior was putting up a season-high 25 points in an 85-70 victory over the Cowboys on Wednesday at Save Mart Center, he also was the primary defender on Jason McManamen, the Cowboys’ second leading scorer, and gave up little.
McManamen, averaging 14 points per game, got only seven shots and six points. Justin James, leading Wyoming with 16.6 points per game, played 14 minutes and was 2 of 6 in scoring seven points.
The Cowboys, who entered third in the Mountain West in scoring at 78.1 points per game and behind conference leaders Nevada and Air Force at 78.2, had a lot of trouble against the Bulldogs.
Fresno State (10-5, 2-1) allowed Wyoming (11-5, 1-2) to hit only 31.7 percent of its shots and had 11 blocks, its high against a Division I opponent since blocking 12 in a loss at Utah on Nov. 30. 2010.
Watson hit 8 of 16 shots, including 2 of 5 beyond the 3-point line. Cullen Russo had 18 along with six rebounds and four steals. Jahmel Taylor, the 6-foot guard, added 14 points and led the Bulldogs with nine rebounds.
Senior Karachi Edo had 12 points and five of the Bulldogs’ blocks.
Stat of the game – Fresno State limited Wyoming to 20-of-63 shooting. That is the best defensive performance by the Bulldogs this season as well as the worst offensive showing by the Cowboys.
The Bulldogs’ past four opponents – Pacific, Oregon, New Mexico and Nevada – had hit between 43.3 and 48.1 percent of their shots.
Notable – Wyoming went into the game leading the MW and was 34th in the nation in total rebounds at 40.4 per game, but the Bulldogs were a plus-12 on the boards (48 to 36).
Taylor led the Bulldogs with nine, but seven of the eight players that got into the game for Fresno State had at least five rebounds.
Freshman Bryson Williams and Terrell Carter II had seven each in just 14 and 8 minutes. Watson, Russo and Edo all had six and Jaron Hopkins had five.
Quotable – Fresno State coach Rodney Terry: “We knew we were going to play a very talented offensive team. (Coach Allen Edwards) has done a great job with this group in terms of how fast they play in transition. We knew we had to get back and really try to get our defense set against these guys. They put a lot of pressure on you. I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that for a better part of the game.”
On Russo – Russo, benched for the first half of the victory over Nevada after missing a team workout, rejoined the starting lineup and made a quick impression.
The senior forward had to go to the bench with 9:43 remaining in the first half after picking up a second foul, but to that point had hit 3 of 4 shots including a 3-pointer in scoring seven points, had three rebounds and one assist in 7 minutes.
He finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals.
“I love getting steals, especially at my size,” he said. “There are not a lot of guys at my size (6-9) that can force turnovers the way I do. That’s something I take pride in.”
It was his best game since opening with a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over Texas-San Antonio.
“I always equate how well you do in games to how hard you practice,” Terry said. “I thought he had one of the better practices that he had since he has been here two days ago and he had good carry over with that in the game.
“When he does that, he’s a high-level player and has a chance to be highly successful. But, again, it gets back to his mindset and really wanting to do that. But if he brings that type of approach to practice he’ll have the same type of success in games.”
Coming up – Watson is bringing more than his length to his defensive matchups, taking on an opponent’s best perimeter scorer. The approach and the study has been in development and vital for the 6-7 senior this season.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at The Event Center (5,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 10-5, 2-1 Mountain West; Spartans 7-6, 0-2 after a 76-71 loss to Colorado State on Wednesday in San Jose.
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940)
FRESNO STATE 85, WYOMING 70
WYOMING (11-5): Naughton 2-3 0-1 4, Herndon 2-11 2-4 6, Lieberman 1-1 0-0 2, Aka Gorski 6-13 5-6 19, McManamen 1-7 3-4 6, Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, Dalton 2-9 10-10 14, Kelley 3-11 1-2 10, Adams 1-2 0-0 2, James 2-6 3-4 7. Totals 20-63 24-31 70.
FRESNO STATE (10-5): Russo 5-9 7-9 18, Edo 4-6 3-7 12, J.Taylor 2-6 9-10 14, Hopkins 4-10 0-0 8, Watson 8-16 7-9 25, Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Carter 1-3 0-0 2, D.Taylor 0-4 2-2 2. Totals 26-57 28-37 85.
Halftime — Fresno State 41-37. 3-Point Goals — Wyoming 6-21 (Kelley 3-5, Aka Gorski 2-5, McManamen 1-3, Herndon 0-3, Dalton 0-5), Fresno St. 5-17 (Watson 2-5, Edo 1-2, Russo 1-3, J.Taylor 1-4, D.Taylor 0-3). Fouled Out — Dalton, James. Rebounds — Wyoming 32 (Dalton 13), Fresno State 48 (J.Taylor 9). Assists — Wyoming 10 (James, McManamen 3), Fresno State 10 (J.Taylor 3). Total Fouls — Wyoming 30, Fresno State 26. A — 6,437 (15,544).