Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly the Bulldogs’ last victory against a Pac-12 opponent.
The eight minutes right at the start – at Rice, at Oregon and at Cal Poly – Fresno State has not handled it well, and on Wednesday the Bulldogs men’s basketball team takes on probably the most difficult task on its non-conference schedule at No. 13 Arizona.
That was the focus in practice and in film sessions since Saturday’s loss at Cal Poly, much more so than the way the Bulldogs failed to attack the Mustangs’ zone in the first half. The ball didn’t move, there were few paint touches and they settled. There were nine shots from the three-point line in the first eight-plus minutes, the same number they took in the entire second half. Fresno State has seen a lot of zone early in the season and it has worked its zone offense well – the Bulldogs were averaging 78.0 points per game going into that loss, and that first half, coach Rodney Terry said, is more of an anomaly.
But it also is a symptom.
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“We weren’t very aggressive the last game out and we had to address that,” he said. “We haven’t been aggressive the way we needed to be until we got behind.”
A remedy could begin with working inside-out at the offensive end and with much better shot selection, whether against zone or man defenses.
Fresno State is seeking its first win over a Pac-12 opponent since 2011 and looks to snap a seven-game losing streak to Pac-12 teams.
At Rice, Fresno State shot 3 of 10 with four turnovers before the under-12 minute timeout and trailed 13-12. At Oregon, the Bulldogs were 2 of 12 with four turnovers and were in an 18-7 hole. At Cal Poly, they were 3 of 16 with one turnover and trailed 12-8.
In their road games, that’s a combined start of 8 of 38 (21.1 percent) with nine turnovers.
The Bulldogs were able to recover at Rice, but the Owls were 0-3 when Fresno State got to Houston, are 3-6 now and one of those victories came against Division II St. Edward’s.
They got close at Oregon with a late surge in the last six-plus minutes in which they cut an 18-point deficit down to four before losing. But they lacked the necessary response at Cal Poly, trailing by 10 or more points for all but 51 seconds in the second half after the Mustangs started it on an 8-0 run that pushed their halftime lead to 14 points.
“We’ve gotten stops to start games,” Terry said. “But offensively, we have not had really good shot selection and we haven’t come down and really worked for shots on our terms, attack the paint. We settle. We talked about that. That’s something we tried to correct through practice, just getting guys to understand how we need to start games and what we’re trying to get done to start games.
We have to attack on our terms and not settle.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry
“We want to own the paint. That’s either with paint drives (or) paint touches. We want to try to get in the paint early in games and try to establish an inside presence. In transition, when we are able to get stops, we have to get out and run. We have to attack on our terms and not settle.”
Arizona, 7-1 and coming off of a victory at Gonzaga, is ranked 18th in the nation in defensive efficiency, leading the Pacific-12 Conference in scoring defense (62.9 points per game) and has defended the three-point line very well. The Wildcats have allowed opponents to hit just 29.1 percent from there. Settling for perimeter shots would appear to not be ideal for the Bulldogs in this matchup.
“No easy task going up against a really good team at home, but we have to go compete. We have to go play,” Terry said. “If you come out and you attack on the terms we’re trying to attack with, no matter what offense we call, we know we want to put pressure on the basket to start games and get high-quality shots. It’s something we really stressed in our film sessions.
“We got a chance to really look. Obviously, as coaches we have broken down why we have gotten off to slow starts. They needed to see it and we addressed a few things. We got out in practice and tried to simulate some of those things by playing a couple of early four-minute games and really harp on the things that we need to do to get us off to better starts.”
Et cetera – Fresno State has lost seven games in a row to Pac-12 teams, its last victory coming against Arizona State (68-65) on Dec. 21, 2011.
▪ The Bulldogs also have not beaten a ranked team on the road since a 73-72 victory at No. 12 Tulsa on Feb. 24, 2000.
▪ Senior Marvelle Harris, leading the Bulldogs with 19.0 points per game, has played seven games against Pac-12 teams. He is averaging 14.7 points in those games, hitting 40.5 percent of his shots (34 of 84). He goes into the game at Arizona’s McKale Center with 1,458 career points, eighth on the Bulldogs’ all-time list, and needs 22 points to tie Maurice Talbot and Jervis Cole in sixth place.
▪ Fresno State has outrebounded all eight of its opponents this season and is a plus-8.2 in rebounding margin. The Wildcats are a plus-11.6, second in the Pac-12.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Up next for ’Dogs
FRESNO STATE AT NO. 13 ARIZONA
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. at McKale Center in Tucson
- Records: Bulldogs 6-2, Wildcats 7-1
- TV: Pac-12 networks
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Series: Tied 3-3
- Last meeting: Arizona 69, Fresno State 50 on Dec. 16, 2007, in Tucson