New Mexico had 20 turnovers the other night and still beat Wyoming, which is hard to do because, for starters, it is not easy to turn it over 20 times in a college basketball game.
In the first three weeks of Mountain West play the only teams to do it were San Jose State and UNLV. The Spartans had 21, 22, 21 and 20 turnovers in losing their first four conference games. The Rebels, like the Lobos, were able to win with 20-plus turnovers – it no doubt helped that they were playing at San Jose State that night.
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Fresno State, which plays New Mexico on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Save Mart Center needing a win for a third week in a row to even its conference record, will have plenty of issues with that equation flipped and in getting its offense right in a tough matchup.
The Lobos can create a mess with their defense, leading the Mountain West in steals and turnovers forced per game.
“We are going to have to be fundamentally sound,” coach Rodney Terry said. “They are a team that comes in and tries to create a lot of havoc. It is going to be a high-possession ballgame.
“We are going to have to play smart and attack on our terms and be able to finish plays.”
But with the Bulldogs struggling to get right in the half-court, can they also get some offense out of their defense, some easy baskets off steals and turnovers?
It hasn’t been happening, not at the level Fresno State has produced in the past. The Bulldogs’ fast-break points in conference play:
▪ Nevada: 0
▪ Air Force: 8
▪ at Utah State: 6
▪ at Colorado State: 10
▪ Boise State: 5
In that victory at Colorado State the Bulldogs needed the extra five minutes in overtime to get to 10 – they had only six at the end of regulation.
Go back further, and Fresno State had three in a loss to Oregon and none in a victory at Cal Poly, but when they beat the Mustangs they still were riding their best stretch of the season at the offensive end, playing inside-out, getting to the rim and to the foul line.
They hit 51.0 percent of their shots in that win including 50.0 percent at the 3-point line.
“I think we do need to get in transition a little more,” point guard Jaron Hopkins said. “I think we’ve been a little stagnant slowing up our offense a little bit when we force a turnover or get a steal or anything like that. If we play a little faster, play a little bit more solid on defense that will hopefully get us some easier baskets on offense and raise our confidence as well.
“It’s definitely harder to play 5 on 5 than it is to play advantage basketball. That’s an emphasis for us as a team and we know we have the athletes to get out in transition and play a little bit. Playing advantage basketball is something we’re going to have to do, especially in this conference.”
When the Bulldogs hit a peak offensively (before Hopkins went down for four games with a back injury) they hit 53.4 percent of their shots while averaging 89.7 points per game in victories over Montana State, Weber State and Long Beach State, and they averaged 11.3 points in transition.
They are not there now, but working toward it.
Terry, who has had some teams start slow in conference play, said after a 70-64 loss to Boise State on Wednesday at the Save Mart Center that the Bulldogs need to attack on their terms and they need to finish plays.
They didn’t attack Boise State well at all, not in the first half when hitting 29.6 percent of their shots and playing to .583 points per possession.
They also haven’t been finishing plays.
The Bulldogs’ layup percentages in Mountain West play:
▪ Nevada 18 of 26, 69.2 percent
▪ Air Force 9 of 18, 50.0
▪ at Utah State 16 of 32, 50.0
▪ at Colorado State 9 of 21, 42.9
▪ Boise State 9 of 22, 40.9
Those are layups, remember.
New Mexico: 8-10, 3-2 in the MW
Fresno State : 12-6, 2-3
The line: Bulldogs -6.5
The Bulldogs are 2-3 in the Mountain West and two of those three losses have come at the Save Mart Center, to Nevada and to Boise State.
Fresno State entering the season had won more conference games at home than any team in the Mountain West, going 16-2 over the past two years and 23-4 over the past three.
The Wolf Pack and Broncos are two of the top teams in the league – 4-0 and 4-1 and in first and second place in the conference. But those home games are tough to give away, especially this season for the Bulldogs, who will be playing five of their last eight conference games on the road.
Long scouting report
New Mexico had only five players score in its victory over Wyoming.
The Lobos were without leading scorer Sam Logwood (shoulder) and guard Troy Simons (suspension), who account for 12.9 and 8.6 points per game.
New Mexico did not have an update on their status for the Fresno State game, but the Bulldogs prepared as if they would play.
Terry called Logwood “one of the better players in our league and he has been a difficult matchup with us over the years.” Of Simons, Terry said, “He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy off the bench and a lot of emotion to their team. He’s a good player.”
The Lobos generally go deep on the bench, with nine players averaging at least 15.0 minutes per game and not one averaging at least 27.0.
Their top three scorers – Logwood, guard Chris McNeal (10.6) and guard Anthony Mathis (10.2) – are playing 24.7, 26.6 and 17.9 minutes per game.
What they haven’t been to this point is successful away from Albuquerque – 0-7 with losses on the road at New Mexico State (75-56), Texas-El Paso (88-76), Colorado (75-57) and in conference play Nevada (77-74) and Boise State (90-62) and on a neutral floor to TCU (69-67) and Maryland (89-65) at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
NEW MEXICO AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- TV/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Records: Bulldogs 12-6, 2-3 Mountain West; Lobos 8-10, 3-2
- Of note: New Mexico has won two games in a row including a 75-66 victory over Wyoming on Wednesday in which it had 20 turnovers and had only five players score. The Lobos were without forward Sam Logwood (shoulder), their leading scorer, and guard Troy Simons (suspension). New Mexico has let it fly from the 3-point line, attempting 560 shots, 120 more than any other team in the conference. Against Division I opponents the Lobos have scored 42.1 percent of their points at the 3-point line, the highest percentage in the conference and tied for 11th in the nation. Fresno State has not defended the 3-point line well, ranking 10th of 11 in the conference. Opponents have hit 38.5 percent of their 3s.