Fresno State had its seeding for the Mountain West Conference Tournament decided for it, but the Bulldogs will head to Las Vegas next week riding a five-game winning streak, one of those a 72-59 victory Saturday over UNLV at the Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs made the outcome clear well before they got to a fairly sloppy end, making a poor shooting team look worse through long stretches.
Fresno State (19-11, 11-7 in the MW), sparked by its defense in this late-season run, allowed the Rebels to hit just 1 of 13 shots at one point in the first half, 1 of 11 to start the second half and 19 of 53 in the game, for 35.8 percent.
Deshon Taylor led the Bulldogs with 19 points while Jaron Hopkins had 16 and Terrell carter II added 15. For Carter, it was the most point he has scored in a game sicne putting up 21 in a Dec. 6 loss at Marquette.
The Bulldogs in their five-game winning streak have allowed just 60.2 points per game.
With Boise State winning at Air Force, the Broncos will be the No. 3 seed and the Bulldogs will be No. 4 next week in Las Vegas. Fresno State will play its first game as the defending tournament champion at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center against the No. 5 seed, either New Mexico or San Diego State. The Bulldogs split the season series with both teams.
Stat of the game – UNLV scored just .787 points per possession, the lowest for a Division I team against the Bulldogs this season.
Notable – Senior Karachi Edo, who has been out since injuring his right ankle on Feb. 8 in a four-overtime loss at Wyoming, got to be on the floor for the start of the game along with fellow seniors Paul Watson and Cullen Russo.
In a move UNLV coach Marvin Menzies agreed to before the game, Russo tipped the ball to Edo, who dribbled it to the sideline and out of bounds before he was embraced by teammates.
“Leading up to it, we were joking about me getting the ball and throwing it up and making a three or something like that,” Edo said. “But going out there and seeing all of Fresno rooting for you - and they actually thought I was going to play, they didn’t know what was happening ... going off the court and hugging all my teammates, it was really emotional for me. I enjoyed all four years here. I never regretted it. Fresno made me the man that I am today, really.”
Postseason play starts for us in Vegas. This time of the year, you have got to finish and advance. That is what our slogan is at this part of the season. You have got to finish hard cuts, finish possessions, and finish everything that you do. If you are able to finish at a very high rate and execute at a very high level, then you advance. That is what this time of the year is about.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
“Marvin was great in terms of allowing us to be able to do that to start the game, to recognize a guy that has done so much for us for four years and to have his moment here even though he’s not able to participate in the game,” Terry said. “He was very gracious to be able to do that for us.”
Edo, who leads the Bulldogs’ in rebounds per game with 6.8, was optimistic that he could make it back and be available to play on Thursday when the Bulldogs open defense of their conference tournament title and try to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
“To me, I could have played (Saturday),” Edo said. “That’s how I felt. Yes, I limped a little bit, but that’s just slight pain.
“We’re trying to make it where there’s just a little bit of pain. We’re just doing rehab right now. Hopefully, the tournament and we’ll go from there.”
Quotable – Deshon Taylor, on the Bulldogs’ confidenceheading to Las Vegas: “We won five straight and we finally got some road wins, some big road wins (at San Diego State and at Boise State) we’ve never won at in a long time and I feel our defense is coming together, so I feel good about it.”
Notable II – Jaron Hopkins scored five of his seven baskets on layups or dunks, and a sixth on a short jump shot. But the seventh probably was the biggest – and most unlikely. Hopkins nailed a 3-pointer with 1:34 to go after the Rebels had cut the Bulldogs lead to 67-58, the first time they had been within double-digits since the 8:59 mark in the first half.
The junior point guard coming in had hit 6 of 29 shots from the 3-point line, 20.7 percent, and had attempted only two over the past four games.
“It wasn’t the best of shots, but the shot clock was ticking down and I just took the shot with confidence,” Hopkins said.
Coming up – The Bulldogs smothered UNLV when it needed to, but there also was a red flag in fouling and sending the Rebels to the foul line 28 times. UNLV had attempted only 21 free throws combined in its past two games.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT: FRESNO STATE VS. TBD
- Date: Thursday, 2:30 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas
- Record: Bulldogs 19-11, 11-7 Mountain West
- Radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600) Mountain West Network (themw.com)