To get by New Mexico on Saturday at Save Mart Center and move to 11-4 overall and for the first time to 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference, the Fresno State Bulldogs likely will have to deal with two things they had trouble with in losses at Cal Poly and to Evansville.
Against the Mustangs, it was zone defense, as the Bulldogs shot a season-low 34.8 percent. With the Purple Aces, it was a four-guard lineup, as the Bulldogs dealt with a difficult matchup in the second half while giving up 45 points, including 22 in the paint and 12 at the free-throw line.
Fresno State is expecting to see both of those strategies from the Lobos, who beat Nevada 88-76 in a conference opener Wednesday while the Bulldogs pulled out a 69-66 victory at UNLV.
They’ll want us to come in and settle for a lot of jump shots. We have to be aggressive and try to play on our terms.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry on Saturday’s matchup with New Mexico
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“They’ll really challenge us,” coach Rodney Terry said. “They’ll want us to come in and settle for a lot of jump shots. We have to be aggressive and try to play on our terms.
“They went small the other night, but we’ve guarded smaller lineups with Karahi (Edo) at the four. Cullen (Russo) can guard a smaller guy as well. But we’ve only had to downsize one time.”
In a 77-65 loss at Cal Poly, the Bulldogs failed to attack through the first half and a good portion of the second. They settled for jump shots, taking 22 from the three-point line – 10 more than they have taken since against a Division I opponent. It has provided a cautionary tale.
Just because you see a zone, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to the paint.
Bulldogs guard Marvelle Harris on his team’s commitment to attack inside
“We came out that game and we settled,” guard Marvelle Harris said. “We took a lot of threes, didn’t get the ball inside. After watching film, we saw a lot of ways we could get it in there. That was the first time we went against a 1-3-1 like that, so it was new for us, but I think after watching the film, we’ll be good. Just because you see a zone, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to the paint. When you drive and kick it, that’s a high-percentage shot. Just don’t think if you see zone, it’s time to shoot threes.”
The problem for Fresno State against Evansville wasn’t the guards on the floor in the second half, but defending the paint against 6-foot-10 Egidiju Mockevicius, who hit 8 of 10 shots and scored 17 points over the final 20 minutes as the Purple Aces pulled away to an 85-77 victory after the score was tied at halftime.
But the matchup against the Lobos is a little less daunting than it was when Evansville guard Mislav Brzoja hit three shots from the three-point line in the second half and Mockevicius found far too much room around the basket, scoring on layups and dunks.
The Lobos had Xavier Adams play a season-high 20 minutes in their victory over Nevada. Adams, Sam Logwood and Anthony Mathis are drivers and rebounders more than perimeter shooters.
13-8 New Mexico’s lead in all-time series with Fresno State, which owns 7-3 edge in Fresno
“We’re going to try to stay with the way we’ve been doing it,” Terry said. “Karachi has improved his defense against smaller guys. Cullen when he wants to do it and is in the right frame of mind has the agility to do it. We’re more than capable of getting that done.”
Et cetera – The Bulldogs’ Harris enters with 1,567 points, fifth on the school’s career scoring list and 17 from tying Carl Ray Harris.
▪ Fresno State entered its conference opener at UNLV leading the league with a plus-6.9 rebounding margin, but after getting outrebounded 43-31, the Bulldogs are plus-5.6 and second behind Colorado State. The Rams are plus-5.9.
▪ Point guard Cezar Guerrero has made one basket in each of the past two games, victories over Pacific Union and at UNLV, and has hit just six over the past four games. But Terry isn’t concerned that he is not finding shots in the offense. “I’m not worried about him offensively,” he said. “He has done a really good job being a floor general for us the past four or five ball games. He’s running our team like a point guard. He’s a point guard that we know can shoot the ball and score the ball for us when called upon, but he has really done a good job running the team. It’s what we’ve needed, and he’s not caught up in, ‘Am I scoring points or how many shots am I getting?’ He’s about the team and about trying to win. Our pace of play has improved because of him.”
▪ Fresno State forced 21 turnovers at UNLV, the first time a Division I opponent has had 20 or more since Feb. 5, 2014. Air Force had 20 turnovers in a 68-51 Bulldogs victory.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. NEW MEXICO
- Saturday: 6:30 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 10-4, 1-0 Mountain West; Lobos 8-6, 1-0 (beat Nevada 88-76 on Wednesday)
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
On the road
WOMEN: FRESNO STATE AT NEW MEXICO
- Saturday: 1 p.m. at WisePies Arena
- Records: Bulldogs 5-7, 1-0 Mountain West; Lobos 8-4, 1-0 (beat Nevada 51-47 on Wednesday)
- Internet: Mountain West Network (www.themwc.com)
- The matchup: Lobos won 2 of 3 last season, including 64-53 in MW Conference Tournament semifinal that ended Bulldogs’ run of four straight championships. … Lobos, led by all-conference selection in senior forward Khadijah Shumpert, picked second behind Colorado State in 2015-16 conference preseason poll (Fresno State was fourth). New Mexico had seven first-place votes to Rams’ 12. Shumpert scored just seven while battling foul trouble vs. Nevada. Sophomore guard Cherise Beynon, second on team at 10.6 ppg to Shumpert’s 14.1, scored 14 against Wolf Pack but on 6-of-18 shooting with seven turnovers. … Bulldogs beat UNLV 58-54 in their Mountain West opener Wednesday, with senior Brittany Aikens scoring career-high 12 on 5-of-9 shooting, including two three-pointers. … Fresno State is fourth in conference in field-goal defense (.390), but New Mexico is second (.350). Rebounding could be deciding factor, with Lobos at a plus-4.9 margin and Bulldogs plus-1.4.