Fresno State built some credibility with its 5-0 start – not a ton, but some.
The roster is better and deeper by far than any of the four previous teams coach Rodney Terry has had and the Bulldogs are sporting the the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year in Marvelle Harris. There is a lot there, more than has been since that last extended winning streak to start a season, a 7-0 run in 2006-07.
That took a bit of a hit early in a 78-73 loss at No. 15 Oregon on Monday, the Bulldogs unsteady at the start in their first shot at a ranked Power Five opponent.
And, with a five-game winning streak on the line, they reverted to that first-half form at the worst possible time after closing from 18 down in the final six-plus minutes behind a big run by Marvelle Harris. The senior guard did not score in the first half as one of three Bulldogs in foul trouble, but from the 6:35 mark scored six consecutive points for Fresno State and 13 of its next 15.
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11-0 Run by Oregon against Fresno State to open the game
“We didn’t get the execution we wanted right down the stretch,” Terry said.
The Bulldogs were within 72-68 with 1:51 to go after Harris knocked down a 3-pointer. But coming out of a Fresno State timeout, the Ducks’ Dillon Brooks got to the rim and scored with the shot clock inside of five seconds. Harris missed a 3-pointer the next time down, but after an Oregon turnover and still down six at 74-68 the Bulldogs turned over the ball on the perimeter, Elgin Cook stepping in to steal a soft pass by Paul Watson.
The Ducks turned that turnover into points, extending their lead to eight. Harris was fouled taking a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go and made the foul shots to get Fresno State back to within four – which only magnified those first seven to eight minutes.
The Bulldogs were down 11-0, missing their first six shots including a layup by Harris, and had three turnovers. They didn’t score until after the under-16 TV timeout, when Lionel Ellison was fouled at the rim and made a pair of foul shots. Burdened with Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Torren Jones in foul trouble, Fresno State didn’t get much done and didn’t look good attempting to do so.
Harris, who came in averaging 20.2 points per game, didn’t get on the board until 12:02 remained – in the game, not the first half. Guerrero, who had hit 17 of 29 shots (58.6 percent) over the past three games, didn’t score until the 19:19 mark in the second half and got off only three shots. Jones finished with his fourth double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds after he was shut out in the first half.
The Bulldogs’ top three scorers played a total of 12, 10 and 7 of the first 20 minutes.
We had 10 turnovers at halftime and we had 18 for the game, and a lot of those were unforced turnovers. There weren’t any traps. We were just careless with the ball.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
Fresno State in that first half had more turnovers than baskets, 10 to 9. The Bulldogs hit only 9 of 31 shots (29.0 percent) including 2 of 9 on 3-pointers. At the other end of the floor, they got beat in transition, got beat off the dribble, beat on cuts to the basket. It was not so much the Ducks (6-0), either. A lot of the damage was self-inflicted, which was not expected given a start that included victories over Pepperdine and San Francisco, which carry some weight.
Recovery was only partial, though Terry was confident the loss would not leave a lasting mark.
“You never know how you’re going to start games,” Terry said. “We fought through some adversity, but we let our offense affect our defense in the first seven minutes of the game.
“A lot of it was on us and I said that to our guys – we haven’t beaten ourselves early in the season in terms of taking care of the basketball. We had 10 turnovers at halftime and we had 18 for the game and a lot of those were unforced turnovers. There weren’t any traps. We were just careless with the ball. We needed to be strong with the ball. We knew coming into this game that we were going to have to block these guys out, transition defense was going to be really big – and we gave up 11 points in transition in the first half – and we had to take care of the basketball. If we could take care of at least two of those three things at a high level then we were going to be in position to win the game.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. THE MASTERS
Thursday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
Records: Bullogs 5-1, Mustangs 3-3
Of note: The game is scheduled as an exhibition for the Mustangs of the NAIA. ... Freshman forward Kaleb Anderson (Clovis High) has started all six games for The Masters.