There were things that Fresno State needed to get done Saturday to get a win at Cal Poly and the Bulldogs checked almost nothing off the list in a 77-65 loss at the Mott Athletics Center, falling most short at the offensive end in attacking the zone and suffering through some woeful shooting.
The Bulldogs, for a second road game in a row, started miserably, missing their first five shots and hitting only 28.1 percent in the first half. They were better in the second, but only marginally, and their inability string together productive possessions stunted any attempt to cut into a deficit that was in double digits through much of the second half.
Fresno State (6-2) hit 34.8 percent of its shots, a season low. The Bulldogs had come in averaging 78.0 points per game and had hit 80 in four of their first seven games, the 65 points also a season low.
Don’t take anything away from these guys – this is their best team since I’ve been here and their deepest team since I’ve been here, so you have to give them credit, too. I’m not going to act like it was just us.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry, giving credit to Cal Poly after Saturday’s loss in San Luis Obispo
Cezar Guerrero led the Bulldogs with 15 points, hitting 5 of 9 shots including 3 of 6 beyond the three-point line. Torren Jones added 13 and Marvelle Harris, who came in averaging 20.0 per game, had a season-low 12 points. Harris made only 5 of his 20 shots including a 1 of 10 at the three-point line.
Zoned out – The Bulldogs have seen plenty of it this season, but in the first half did not attack the zone very well, settling for jump shots that obviously were not going in. Paint touches? There weren’t many of them, Fresno State scored only four points there in the first half.
“We’ve played seven games already and probably six of those games have been against zone,” coach Rodney Terry said. “I told our guys, we’re going to see a lot of zone all year long. That’s just the norm right now in terms of what we’re facing. We’ve always had success against these guys doing a lot of the things that we opened the game doing, in terms of trying to play downhill and not settle for jump shots.
“We had a couple of times where we got the ball into the paint with a post feed or a drive, but not as consistently as we really wanted to. But don’t take anything away from these guys – this is their best team since I’ve been here and their deepest team since I’ve been here, so you have to give them credit, too. I’m not going to act like it was just us.”
9 of 32 Fresno State’s first-half shooting
The shooting part, in large part, though, was the Bulldogs.
“I just feel like we didn’t come out as aggressive as we needed to,” Guerrero said. “We settled for shots, but for the most part eventually we’re going to hit shots. We practice on zone so much, the zone offense, but we just have to make shots and today wasn’t our day.”
Missed opportunity – The Bulldogs had a chance to get their deficit into a single digit inside of 5 minutes, but down 63-53 they missed on three opportunities.
Harris rebounded a Cal Poly miss and pushed his way up the floor, but missed in the lane. Julien Lewis pulled the rebound, and ended up missing a jump shot. Cullen Russo snared that offensive rebound and the ball made it back to Harris at the three-point line, straight out. Harris missed.
The Mustangs finally shut down the possession, David Nwaba with the rebound. After a 30-second timeout, Taylor Sutlive hit a jump shot to push the lead to 12 and the advantage teetered around there the rest of the way, between 10 and 13 points. The Bulldogs never got within a single digit.
Lack of stops didn’t help – The Bulldogs did defend the three-point line fairly well – Cal Poly hit 8 of 22 (36.4 percent). But their inability get stops and get out in transition didn’t help matters.
Fresno State forced a season-low 10 turnovers and had a season-low three steals. Inside the 3-point line, the Mustangs were 14 of 22 (63.6 percent).
When you have to go 5 on 5 every possession down, even the best teams struggle doing that, especially early in the year. That’s hard to do.
Terry on the Bulldogs’ offensive struggles in transition
“They attacked on their terms. We just have to do a better job because we’re at our best when we’re able to get stops and we’re able to play in transition, we’re able to get some transition baskets,” Terry said. “Playing 5 on 5 is the hardest thing to do in college basketball. We have to be able to get stops, play to our strength where we can get out and run and that doesn’t give the teams the opportunity to get their defense set. When you have to go 5 on 5 every possession down, even the best teams struggle doing that, especially early in the year. That’s hard to do.
“But when we’re getting stops and we’re getting out and getting some transition baskets, it just change the flow of the game and we haven’t been able to do that the last two games in terms of really getting stops and playing to our strength.”
Fresno State had only four fast-break points in the game.
Et cetera – The Bulldogs did outrebound Cal Poly 41-38, including 18 at the offensive end. Fresno State has outrebounded all eight opponents this season.
▪ The 12 points for Harris are a season low. The last time he scored fewer than 12: the Bulldogs’ loss to Colorado State at the Mountain West Conference Tournament last season. He was 1 of 10 in that game, held to just four points.
▪ The Cal Poly bench outscored the Bulldogs’ reserves 36-17. Guerrero hit 5 of 9 shots and 3 of 6 beyond the three-point line. During the past six games, he has hit 25 of 49 shots (51 percent) and 18 of 36 from distance.
▪ The Bulldogs play at Arizona on Wednesday. The Wildcats are 7-1 and will go in off a 68-63 victory at Gonzaga.
▪ In the first half of the Bulldogs’ past two road games, at Oregon and at Cal Poly, they have hit 9 of 31 (29 percent) and 9 of 32 shots (28.1 percent). “I think it’s as simple as just not making shots,” Guerrero said. “With the offense that coach Terry and coach (Kenton) Paulino gives us, we get the shots. It’s just us making them. Sometimes the outcome doesn’t go our way. Make shots, and it’s a whole different outcome. When we make shots, we’re a pretty hard team to beat. We just have to keep at it in the gym.”
▪ Harris, with the 12 points, now has 1,458 in his career.
▪ Fresno State had hit better than 40 percent of its shots in five consecutive games coming in, after struggling in the first two. The Bulldogs have not hit less than 30 percent in a game since a 75-53 loss at San Diego State on Feb. 9, 2013. They were 17 of 58 (29.3 percent) in that game.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Off to the desert
FRESNO STATE AT NO. 19 ARIZONA
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. in Tucson
- Records: Bulldogs xx-xx, Wildcats 6-1
- Webcast/radio: Pac-12 Network (Comcast channel 434)/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Wildcats, just inside the AP Top 20 poll for Week 4 (Nov. 30), rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off No. 13 Gonzaga 68-63 on Saturday in Spokane, Washington.