There was a big three-pointer and a bigger follow and a scramble at the end, but Fresno State emerged with a one-point men’s basketball victory at Air Force and its second road win in Mountain West play despite shooting a season-worst 34.5 percent. And that was not even the hard part of a three-game stretch that, to this point, appeared to be a prime spot to string together some conference victories for a team that has not won back-to-back games against Division I opponents going on six weeks now.
That tough task comes Tuesday night at Save Mart Center with Wyoming and Josh Adams, a team and a player that can exploit the Bulldogs’ defensive weaknesses.
Fresno State is seeking its first victory on a Tuesday since beating Nevada 69-64 in overtime in Reno on Feb. 19, 2013 (0-6 since)
Adams in attack mode is a tough guard, a test for the Bulldogs’ on-ball defense, and he’s returning from a one-game suspension by the Mountain West for violating its sportsmanship rules.
He is leading the conference in scoring, averaging 24.6 points. He gets to the foul line, attempting more free throws through 19 games than any player in the conference.
He is a threat at all three levels, leading the conference in three-point field goals with 55 while ranking sixth in three-point field-goal percentage at 37.7. And he will have the ball in his hands a lot – Adams has taken 34.9 percent of the Cowboys’ shots, which is the most in the conference by a wide margin; San Jose State forward Gary Williams is second at 29.4 percent.
“It’s a team challenge,” senior guard Cezar Guerrero said. “We all have to stop him. He’s such a big threat, as well as his teammates. It’s a team challenge that we have because he can put up numbers. He had 38 points against New Mexico. He’s really good. He’s one of the best players in the Mountain West.
He’s going to get his points. But we have to contain him enough for us to get the victory.
Fresno State guard Cezar Guerrero on Wyoming’s Josh Adams
“I see him as their Marvelle Harris. His shot has improved tremendously. We just have to play with our hands back and play team defense to really contain him. He’s going to get his points. But we have to contain him enough for us to get the victory.”
The Bulldogs have a number of players to deploy against Adams, who has six 30-point games this season, including 32 against Cal and 34 against Houston along with the 38 against the Lobos. Guerrero, Harris, Julien Lewis and Lionel Ellison likely will get the call.
“He’s going to be a team guard,” coach Rodney Terry said. “He’ll be a team guard in the halfcourt. He’ll be a team guard in transition. All of those guys have guarded good players this year, so we just have to get out there and mix it up and see what matchup works for us.
“He’s a tough guard. He’s a tough guard for everybody on their schedule this year. But I’ll say this, too: I think the guys around him have also helped contribute to his success. They have a good shooting team this year – they can shoot the ball at every spot.”
Seizing opportunity – Guerrero is playing off the ball more this season, but there have been two gigantic indications recently that he is finding a comfort level with the role. The first is his three-pointer to tie the score at the end of regulation of an overtime loss at San Diego State. The second is another three that put Fresno State in the lead with 32 seconds to go in a victory at Air Force.
“It’s something new, but I have to take advantage of it,” he said. “I work on my shot so much and seeing it in the final seconds pay off and having the confidence knowing I work on it so much, it feels like it’s going to go in; it feels good to finally see shots falling down for me. Hopefully, it catapults me to having better games. It’s been a roller coaster this year. I’ve been up and down. Hopefully I stay on the rise.”
Et cetera – Sophomore Terrell Carter could miss a third consecutive game waiting for an administrative issue related to academic course work from the fall semester to be cleared up. The backup center continues to practice with the team.
▪ Harris enters the game just six points shy of tying Terrance Roberson (1,690 from 1996-2000) for third place on the all-time Fresno State scoring list. Harris, who is averaging 18.9 points overall and 19.9 in conference play, has scored 1,684 points. Wil Hooker (1989-92) is second with 1,739 points.
▪ Fresno State on Tuesday is hosting what it is calling its largest pizza giveaway ever, with 100 pies set to be delivered to fans at Save Mart Center.
▪ The Bulldogs, despite being off to their best start since the 2006-07 season, are averaging only 5,833 fans through 12 home dates, ranking eighth of 11 in the Mountain West.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MEN’S BASKETBALL: FRESNO STATE VS. WYOMING
- Tuesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 13-7, 4-3 MW; Cowboys 9-10, 3-5
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Fresno State leads 12-9
- Last meeting: Fresno State 64, Wyoming 59 in Laramie on Feb. 25, 2015