Rebounding and defense aside, the Fresno State men’s basketball team has other issues to work on coming off back-to-back losses at San Diego State and at Colorado State. The Bulldogs will start by inserting Cezar Guerrero back into the starting lineup at point guard as a potential fix at the offensive end.
The Bulldogs hit only 36.5% and 32.7% of their shots in those two games — the sixth and seventh times in nine conference games that they have failed to hit 40% — and had only 10 total assists while turning over the basketball 23 times.
The spacing was not good. The ball got stuck in the half court. They didn’t shoot well.
“We’ve been playing selfish the last couple of games and it has showed in our assists-to-turnovers ratio, so we just have to start playing as a team again, move the ball, get a lot of ball movement,” said Marvelle Harris, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer. “It was us breaking down. It was more about us than it was about (San Diego State and Colorado State). We want them to have to adjust to us, but playing one-on-one made us have to adjust to them a little bit more.”
They get a chance Wednesday night at Save Mart Center to get back on track at the offensive end and move up in the Mountain West race against a depleted and struggling San Jose State team that is winless in conference play (0-9), losing by an average of 24.3 points — including road losses by 50 points at Boise State, 34 at UNLV, 28 at Utah State, 26 at New Mexico and 22 at Air Force.
The Spartans are ranked last in the conference in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense and rebounding margin. Last month in the first meeting at San Jose State, Fresno State shot 52%, had 15 assists and scored 1.21 points per possession in a 73-62 victory — all of those high marks in conference play. The Bulldogs haven’t hit a higher percentage of their shots in a conference road game since a victory at Boise State in 2004 when they knocked down 61.2%.
That win at San Jose State was the first game this season for Guerrero, who had missed the first 17 while ineligible after not meeting NCAA continuing eligibility requirements. He came off the bench, hit 4 of 9 shots, including 4 of 7 3-pointers, in scoring 15 points.
The junior point guard was made available to the media after that game but not since. Coach Rodney Terry said Guerrero could provide a push, with Emmanuel Owootoah continuing to bring a defensive presence off the bench. Owootoah has started the past nine games at the one position.
The Bulldogs did not get much in transition at San Diego State or Colorado State, but need to push the pace at the offensive end whether playing against a man or a zone — better player movement, better ball movement, share the basketball and avoid having it stick on one side of the floor.
“It’s time for him to step up,” Terry said of Guerrero, who has averaged 11.8 points and 2.8 assists while playing 28.4 minutes in his five games. “Emmanuel still is going to do a great job from his position and he has done a great job. Cezar Guerrero in great shape and in great playing form is one of the better guards in our league. Obviously, he has had to play himself into shape — he still is not in great shape — and he has had to try to learn how to get back into managing the game for us as well.
“He has to be out there on the floor. He has to be able to get that timing back and understand what’s a good shot and what’s not a good shot, understand that we didn’t have a great possession there and we have to have a great possession this time down. That’s just being out there and being engaged in what we’re doing.”
• Forward Alex Davis, who was suspended indefinitely for actions detrimental to the team prior to the game at Colorado State, has not practiced with the team and will not play against San Jose State. “We’re working through what we need to work through with him,” Terry said. “That’s going to be day to day, what we need to do with him.”
• After playing San Jose State, the Bulldogs are off until playing at UNLV on Tuesday.
• Fresno State will be giving away more than $1,000 in gas cards during the game, with drawings every five minutes of game time.
• The Bulldogs are 5-4 in the Mountain West, tied with Utah State in sixth place but only two games behind Wyoming and San Diego State. Fresno State has not started conference play 6-4 since the 2004-05.