Air Force is the second-best 3-point shooting team in the Mountain West Conference, but at 38.8 percent it would stand to reason at some point they would start missing, which they didn’t often in the first half. The Falcons hit seven there and had a season-high 12 midway through the second half, but once there they stalled, coincidentally right when Fresno State managed to knock down a few of its own.
That reversal started the Bulldogs on their way to a 73-64 victory Wednesday at Save Mart Center.
Deshon Taylor, who scored 25 points to continue a sizzling run since entering the Bulldogs’ starting lineup, started the run with a 3-pointer with 10:29 to go. That was followed by a 3 and then another by Jahmel Taylor.
The Bulldogs’ victory was No. 99 for coach Rodney Terry. He is 99-92 in his sixth season at Fresno State and goes for win No. 100 on Saturday at the Save Mart Center against San Diego State.
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A two-point Fresno State lead increased to 10 in a little more than two and a half minutes and the Bulldogs, who were in a 14-2 hole to start and grinded along for much of the game, were able to make it home safely from there.
Deshon Taylor, who played all 40 minutes, had six rebounds, four assists and four steals to go with his 25 points. He is averaging 20.4 points in his five starts. Jahmel Taylor and Jaron Hopkins both added 15 for the Bulldogs (14-8, 6-4 in the MW).
Air Force missed its last nine shots from the 3-point line, finishing 12 of 35.
Stat of the game – The Bulldogs outscored Air Force by 15 at the foul line. They made 25 of 32 free throws while the Falcons were 10 of 16.
Notable – When the Falcons beat the Bulldogs at Clune Arena on Jan. 11, 17 of their 22 baskets inside the 3-point line came on lay ups and dunk and they scored 42 points in the paint.
Fresno State cut that off, this time around. Air Force scored only 18 points in the paint.
"They're a really difficult team to guard," coach Rodney Terry said. "They're older. They play with great pace. They can rebound the basketball. They can shoot the basketball. I mean, they had seven threes at the half. When you're able to shoot the ball as well as they did tonight and play at the pace that they play, man, that's really hard to guard.
Fresno State, tied for 13th in the nation with 8.6 steals per game, had 12 against Air Force. They scored 16 points off turnovers.
"It's always one of the toughest match ups for us because we're a very aggressive team. They really exploit teams that are very aggressive with their back cuts. We gave up eight or nine back cuts for lay ups last time and we didn't give up any tonight. Huge step forward for us in terms of details, preparation and having some defensive patience."
Quotable – Fresno State guard Deshon Taylor on his run since entering the starting lineup: "The coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. When I go out there, I feel comfortable playing. I know I have to play good defense and good defense leads to good offense."
Coming up – Terry put it on the Bulldogs at halftime, telling his team that they were about to play the most important 20 minutes of the season. They responded, allowing the Falcons to hit only 32.3 percent of their shots with .889 points per possession.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs , Mountain West; Aztecs 12-9, 4-5
- Webcast/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Notable: San Diego State put a stop to a two-game losing streak with a 77-68 victory over Wyoming on Tuesday, getting 18 points from Trey Kell and 17 from Malik Pope. The Aztecs entering play on Wednesday were leading the MW in scoring defense by a sizable margin, allowing 63.2 points per game with Boise State in second at 68.8.They also are leading the conference in field goal percentage defense (39.2) and second in steals (7.2) behind the Bulldogs (8.6).