It was a worthy call, because Fresno State had to try something different in its rematch with Nevada and because Terrell Carter II had proven in last week’s victory over UNLV that he can make an outsized impact on a game.
That was 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
But against Nevada and the athletes it put on the floor it was a tough matchup, especially with the Wolf Pack committed to pushing pace, which it did at a very high rate without any of its moving pieces coming apart.
That hurt Carter, who made his first start since a Nov. 21 loss to Evansville at the Cancun Challenge, and it hurt the Bulldogs in a 102-92 loss at the Lawlor Events Center even with Deshon Taylor pouring in a career-high tying 32 points.
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“Pace for our team is everything,” Nevada forward Cody Martin said. “We have so many athletic guys and so many ballhandlers that we can just get a rebound and push it. We have to take more advantage of that, pushing the ball and having a faster pace to our game.
“Coach emphasized that throughout the whole week of preparation. Even if we don’t have anything, just push it, get up the floor, put pressure on their defense and see if somebody will slip up even when they get back, especially tonight when they start out with two bigs. We have to get those guys up and down the floor. It has to be a track meet. We have to get those guys pretty winded pretty early.”
Nevada put up 80 points when it beat the Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center in December, which is not a small number. Wednesday, the Wolf Pack played at a much faster pace than they did in that game and had a week off to work on that, which can’t be discounted.
Nevada had not played since a Jan. 24 loss at Wyoming, 104-103 in double overtime.
Hitting 33 of 56 shots against the Bulldogs, 58.9 percent, was just the start.
The Wolf Pack had 23 assists on 33 made baskets, 69.7 percent.
It had only five turnovers, matching its season-low.
Nevada also produced 1.417 points per possession, the highest for a team in a Mountain West game this season. The top five:
1.417: Nevada, 102-92 win over Fresno State
1.348: Fresno State, 89-80 win over New Mexico
1.324: Boise State, 94-71 win over San Jose State
1.309: Wyoming, 85-77 win over Utah State
1.293: San Diego State, 97-78 win over Colorado State
“We wanted to try to see if we could have an inside presence to start the game, but the game was a little too fast for Terrell in terms of the pace of play,” coach Rodney Terry said. “It just ended up not being the matchup we thought we could have with those guys.
“Any time you play a team, you try to see what will can we impose on those guys as opposed to having it go the other way around. We started trying to see if we could get some things done in the paint and maybe get some fouls on keys guys to get into their bench and get their guys off the floor.”
Foul trouble has been an issue for Carter throughout his career – he fouled out of games in just five minutes against Delaware State when he was a sophomore and at Wyoming when he was a junior, and fouled out in eight minutes against Prairie View A&M that season.
But this season the Bulldogs center has been called for an inordinate number of fouls at the offensive end of the floor.
He was called for two at Nevada and his last five fouls and six of his last eight over the past three games have been at the offensive end.
In Mountain West play, it is 25 fouls, 12 on offense. Carter’s last five foul sheets:
at Nevada: 2 fouls, 2 on offense
Utah State: 3 fouls, 3 on offense
UNLV: 3 fouls, 1 on offense
at San Diego State: 2 fouls, 0 on offense
New Mexico: 4 fouls, 1 on offense
Fresno State was called for 27 fouls Wednesday, Nevada only 15.
Adding to the rivalry
Jaron Hopkins and Cody Martin did some jawing at one another at the end of the game, after Hopkins inadvertently poked Martin in the eye going for a last-second rebound and got a big piece of him when trying to strip the ball away.
“I didn’t think that was intentional,” Martin said. “I think the second time he just tried to steal it. I’m pretty sure he was trying to steal it, but he about took my arm off so I kind of let the first thing slide when he poked me in the eye and the second one … I don’t know, emotions I guess.”
None of the Bulldogs were made available after the game – not unusual after a loss – but the Wolf Pack in a postgame press conference didn’t hide their feelings about what is becoming a fairly intense rivalry. Fresno State swept Nevada during the regular season before losing in the Mountain West Tournament a year ago and had won four of the past five games played in Reno, all as an underdog.
“We really don’t like each other,” said Nevada guard Josh Hall, who had 19 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. “We hate each other.
“From our side, we don’t like them just because of the arrogance they have and the confidence, I guess, that they come in here with. We’re both good, competitive and fierce teams.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT WYOMING
- Saturday: 11 a.m. at Arena-Auditorium, Laramie, Wyo.
- TV/radio: AT&TSportsNet/KFIG (AM ESPN 940)
- Records: Bulldogs 15-8, 5-5 Mountain West; Cowboys 15-7, 6-3
- Of note: The Cowboys won at Colorado State 91-86 in two overtimes on Wednesday, getting 26 points from Hayden Dalton and 25 from Justin James. Alan Herndon also had 11 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and two steals for the Cowboys. Wyoming started the week fourth in the Mountain West in scoring offense at 79.4 points per game, but also had allowed 78.0 points per game and was ranked last in the conference in scoring defense. Opponents had hit 42.8 percent of their shots and 36.4 percent at the 3-point line. James was third in the conference in scoring and Dalton was ninth at 18.9 and 16.9 points per game.