It was more stating reality than rip job, but Fresno State coach Rodney Terry usually measures his words carefully when dissecting difficult or disappointing losses. So these in particular stood out.
After a loss at San Jose State – in an empty arena that was never that full to begin with given a home team that was improving, yes, but still went in 7-15 and 2-8 in the Mountain West – Terry emerged from the locker room, gave the Spartans requisite credit and then put the loss squarely on his players.
“It’s going to have to be player-driven,” Terry said, echoing what he told his team. “As much as we talk about coaches, these guys have to want to do it right now. We’re at a juncture of the season right now, we’re at the midway point and we had put ourselves in a pretty good position, but in this league you have to come to play every night. …
“It was a difficult night for all of us, players and coaches. We all didn’t get much sleep with that one. But you know what we did the next day? We came right back in, got right back on the floor and we started working on the things that we needed to get better.”
Since then, Fresno State has won two of the tougher matchups in the conference against UNLV and San Diego State, winning in double overtime against the Rebels and coming from 11 down in the second half with a lineup impacted by injury against an Aztecs’ team that had won 11 in a row.
It’s a great confidence boost, because it showed us that we’re just as good as they are. As much as teams talk about them in this league, they should be talking about us.
Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris on the momentum from a home win over Mountain West-leading San Diego State
“I think as the coaches were challenging us, we were challenging each other,” said Marvelle Harris, who was 2 of 16 in scoring a season-low seven points in the loss at San Jose State and was 20 of 44 and averaged 28.5 points in the victories over UNLV and San Diego State.
“On the bus, we had a talk on the way back, and we just said, ‘Hey, as we’ve seen, every team is capable of beating anybody in this league. You have to play hard. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Whether or not that finally has taken root, what Fresno State (16-8, 7-4) faces Saturday traveling to Reno for a game against Nevada could be a more difficult challenge than UNLV or San Diego State – and the Bulldogs cannot afford to come with less than their best.
7 games remaining for the Bulldogs, among a group of five teams within a game of one another behind the front-running Aztecs
The victory over the Aztecs moved Fresno State into a tie with New Mexico for second in the conference race, but five teams are within one game in the standings either tied for second, in fourth or tied for fifth. In conference tournament seeding, the top five receive byes into the quarterfinals.
Coming off two large victories at Save Mart Center and going on the road to play a team that it beat fairly easily (85-63) at home, this could be a flat spot and, as noted, history is not on the Bulldogs’ side.
The last time they had a chance to extend a conference winning streak to three, the Bulldogs went on the road to play a team they already had beaten and lost that game at San Jose State.
But they also didn’t have victories over the Rebels and San Diego State in the back pocket.
“It’s a great confidence booster,” Harris said. “Sometimes guys get caught up in the hype and you see names on jerseys and say this and that. It’s a great confidence boost, because it showed us that we’re just as good as they are. As much as teams talk about them in this league, they should be talking about us. They should be worried about us. I think it helped us a lot.”
8-2 Nevada’s homecourt record in 2015-16, though two of the losses have come in Mountain West play
The Wolf Pack (14-9, 6-5), one of those five in tight at the top half of the standings, have played much better at Lawlor Events Center. Nevada is 8-2 on its home floor, with losses to San Diego State 57-54 on Jan. 26 and fourth-place Boise State 74-67 on Jan. 13.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult place to go play,” Terry said. “They play well at home. They have seniors. They’re playing with urgency. They put a lot of pressure on the basket. They can drive the basketball. (Marqueze) Coleman is really tough, (Tyron) Criswell … those guys are good players.
“We have to go over there and work the game for 40 minutes on the road. This time of year you have to play with a lot of urgency.”
Et cetera – When the Bulldogs played at Nevada last year, Harris hit 14 of 23 shots including 5 of 8 beyond the three-point line in scoring a career-high 40 points as Fresno State won 69-66.
▪ The Bulldogs will again be short with forwards Karachi Edo (wrist) and Torren Jones (medical issue) expected to miss the game. Forward Paul Watson, who suffered a calf injury in the second half of the victory over San Diego State, is listed as day or day.
FRESNO STATE AT NEVADA
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center
- Records: Bulldogs 16-8, 7-4 Mountain West; Wolf Pack 14-9, 6-5
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940)