Two-plus weeks into Mountain West Conference play, Fresno State is 2-2 and there is one common denominator splitting the wins from the losses.
When the Bulldogs have defended well, they have won, and when they have not, they have lost – the up-and-down following a trend that has developed since the first month of the season when they got off to a 5-0 nonconference start.
In conference play, the Bulldogs’ defensive efficiency rating – a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions – started at 90.4 in a victory at UNLV, then jumped to 102.8 in a loss to New Mexico, got back to 85.5 in a victory over Nevada and last time hit a season-high 123.7 in a loss at Boise State.
It is a fairly strong hint headed into a matchup Saturday against San Jose State at Save Mart Center that will be followed by games at San Diego State and Air Force.
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Come out and put it on our defense and the offense will come to us.
Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris on one key Bulldogs goal as conference play continues
“We have to sit down and guard,” senior guard Marvelle Harris said. “Sometimes we come out and we try to put it on our offense and try to outscore the other team. I think the games that we have won, and we’ve shown we can sit down and guard, those are the ones that we’re successful in. So, come out and put it on our defense, and the offense will come to us.”
Too often, offense has impacted defense, with the latter relaxing after a make or getting down after a miss.
“We’ve had some lulls on offense here and there throughout the course of a game, and when we have those lulls. I really try to stress to our guys that’s when we really have to rev it up on defense and try to get some stops so we can play to our strength, which is getting out and playing in transition,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We have to rev it up harder on defense when we’re not playing well offensively.”
It’s a matter of executing what we’re asking guys to do, our principles. We’re not far off. It’s not like we have to go to the moon.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry
Against the Spartans, that again might actually hurt. San Jose State (6-11, 1-4), which has won only two Mountain West games since joining the conference in 2013-14, going 1-17 and 0-18 the past two seasons, is much better at the offensive end than it has been.
The Spartans last season averaged 53.7 points per game, hitting 35.5 percent of their shots, including 29.3 percent beyond the three-point line. They averaged 9.8 assists and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.7. And they ranked 10th or 11th in the conference in every category.
San Jose State this season is averaging 74.5 points while hitting 44.3 percent of its shots and is leading the conference in assists with 16.1 per game and is fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.1.
“It’s a matter of executing what we’re asking guys to do, our principles,” Terry said. “We’re close. We’re not far off. It’s not like we have to go to the moon. We’ve shown some really good flashes, but we have to be more consistent doing it, but probably half the teams in Division I can say that as well.”
5.3 Fresno State’s rebounding margin, second best in the conference, with the team averaging 39.9 per game while allowing 34.6. Colorado State is No. 1 in the Mountain West at 5.5.
Et cetera – The Spartans come in off a Mountain West victory, which has not happened in a long while. A 62-55 win over Wyoming on Wednesday was the first for San Jose State in conference play since beating Nevada on Feb. 18, 2014, and snapped a 27-game MW skid. This team, Harris said, doesn’t much resemble the ones that the Bulldogs breezed by the past two seasons at Save Mart Center, winning 81-63 last season and 82-56 in 2013-14.
“You can see that on film,” he said. “Better team. They’ve always played hard, but I think they’re finally putting together the pieces and they’re going to compete in every game. They have big guards. They have a post that can shoot. Once you put that together, it’s a tough team to guard.”
▪ The Bulldogs are second in the conference in rebounding margin at plus-5.5 and that was an emphasis with the extra practice time this week between games. “We were a plus-2 at Boise, but we still gave up too much,” Terry said. “You can’t give up rebounds, especially to the main guys that can rebound the ball and cause problems for you. We did that up there.”
In that loss, the Broncos had five offensive rebounds in the first half that led to 12 second-chance points, helping them turn a one-point deficit with 10:20 to go into a 51-32 lead at the break.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 11-6, 2-2 Mountain West; Spartans 6-11, 1-4
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (campusinsiders.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)