The Fresno State Bulldogs had handled zone well enough in the past; attacked it, moved the basketball and made shots.
But in a loss at New Mexico to open Mountain West Conference play, they did not. They were tentative. They got stagnant.
The Lobos went to a 2-3 in the first half after the Bulldogs got out to a lead and again in the second after they had closed to within one point and both times it set Fresno State back a bit; it hit one of its next nine shots with two turnovers in the first half, one of its next six shots with two turnovers in the second half.
The Bulldogs figure to see zone again Wednesday night in a matchup against Utah State at the Save Mart Center, and if they can get back to attacking and knocking down shots they could end up above the .500 mark in conference play for the first time under coach Rodney Terry.
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Similar to the Bulldogs’ victory over No. 25 San Diego State on Saturday, they attack first at the opposite end of the floor.
“I think you attack their defense by attacking their offense because they feed off of their offense,” Terry said. “First of all, they’re probably one of the better executing offensive teams in the country. They really execute their offense. They know what they’re looking for. They know who they are and they get great execution. When they’re able to do that and they’re scoring at a high rate, they’re able to put it back on their defense and they can dictate what defense they want to play and they make it very difficult for the team that’s not getting stops.
“I think you attack their defense by trying to do a really good job against their offense. They’re able to get into their zone when they’re making baskets.”
But for the Bulldogs (6-9, 1-1 MW) it will come down to being more aggressive against the zone than they were at New Mexico whether Emmanuel Owootoah or Marvelle Harris is at the point — Owootoah, who did not commit a turnover and had two assists in 37 minutes in the victory over San Diego State, will get the start.
And, of course, the Bulldogs need to make shots and at least they will be in familiar surroundings. Fresno State has hit 46.3% of its shots at home, the fourth best mark in the Mountain West, but only 42.2% on the road and 38.3% in three neutral site games. The Bulldogs also put up 79 points in winning at Utah State last season (79-76), the most points allowed by the Aggies during the MW season.
“We’ve got a number of different ways and things that we’ve worked on that I think will help us a little bit from the last time out playing against zone,” Terry said. “But at the end of the day against zone, you have to be able to make shots, you have to be able to get in the gap and you can’t be timid. You have to be in attack mode against zone. You have to get the zone back on its heels.
“Zone has been a pretty good defense against us. But at the end of the day, if you make shots against zone, zone is never even an issue, and in the past we have made shots against zone whether they were outside shots, short-corner shots. You just have to attack it and know what you’re looking for the right way. Just be confident players out there. We go right through it. Just be confident.”