Fresno State

Fresno State men’s basketball: ’Dogs turn it on entering final week of regular season

AP

There was a stretch midway through the second half when Fresno State put the ball in the hands of Marvelle Harris and New Mexico got a bit mixed up defending ball screens, giving him a nice head start at the rim.

The senior guard took that open invitation to drive, kicking off a decisive run with two layups and a trip to the foul line in a 92-82 victory over the Lobos on Saturday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

The win was huge for the Bulldogs (20-9, 11-5 Mountain West) in many ways. They reached 20 regular-season victories for the first time since 2006-07. Sitting in second place in the Mountain West, they clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament. And with two games remaining, they became the hottest team in the conference, winning for the sixth time in seven games.

“Feels pretty good,” Harris said.

But there was far more to it, and that could bode well for the Bulldogs, who have a chance to win out with 7-8 Colorado State visiting Save Mart Center on Wednesday and a trip to 6-10 Utah State to end the regular season.

Harris had 32 points and a career-high-tying 10 assists – he also had 10 last season against St. Katherine. But Julien Lewis added a season-high 21 points, hitting 8 of 11 shots, including 5 of 6 from three-point range. Karachi Edo had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Cullen Russo had 13 points and six rebounds as both big men stayed on the floor down the stretch despite foul trouble. Jahmel Taylor sank three shots from beyond the three-point line.

“Every guy that came in gave us a lift,” said coach Rodney Terry, who has improved the Bulldogs’ win total in each of their four years in the Mountain West, from five to nine to 10 and now 11. “Sam (Bittner) came in, and his minutes were critical for us. Terrell (Carter II)’s 12 minutes were big as well. It was a total team win for us. Again, we fought through some adversity early in the first half there, and guys kept working. They kept working the game.

“I said to our guys, ‘Over the last seven, eight, nine games, we’ve bought into team.’ When you buy into team, it’s really hard to not do your job and not have your teammate’s back. I think our guys have really bought into that concept. We’ve always tried to develop a culture here where we’re going to play for 40 minutes, and whether we have a lead, whether we are behind, we’re going to try to play the same way and be the same team.”

The Bulldogs did that, overcoming a 15-0 New Mexico run that became 20-2 in the first half. Fresno State trailed by 13 but cut that deficit to 43-41 at halftime.

And midway through the second half, they were down by one when Harris took advantage of some defensive mistakes by the Lobos.

“A couple of times, there was some miscommunication on their part, and being a basketball player, when you see things like that, you have to take advantage of it, especially in a place like this,” Harris said. “You don’t get many of those opportunities.

“A couple of times where they broke down on defense, I saw the lane and I either took that lane and tried to go make a play or I kicked it out and (my teammates) made a play and I was confident doing it.”

A Harris layup put Fresno State ahead 63-62 with 9:52 remaining. After a New Mexico turnover, Harris shot into the lane again and was fouled, making 1 of 2 free throws. Harris made another layup and was fouled for a three-point play.

The next trip down the floor, the ball got inside to Carter, who was fouled and hit two free throws that pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 69-62, and they worked their way home. The Lobos cut the lead to five twice, but it took the Bulldogs only 22 and 20 seconds to push the lead back to eight on a three-pointer by Taylor and another by Harris.

“Everybody is playing confident,” Harris said. “We had Juice step up tonight. We had Cullen make some big plays. Karachi make some big plays. Jahmel came off the bench ready to shoot like we need him to. Everybody gave us positive minutes.”

Mr. February – The Bulldogs’ first game in February was that stinker loss at San Jose State, in which Harris hit only 2 of 16 shots, scored a season-low seven points and had a rather pedestrian stat line overall. But that one game hasn’t prevented him from being one of the most productive players in the Mountain West this month.

In games played in February:

Harris ranks second in the conference with 188 points. New Mexico guard Elijah Brown leads with 207. Wyoming guard Josh Adams is third with 166.

He leads the MW in assists with 46. Adams is second with 38, and UNLV guard Patrick McCaw is third with 34.

He also leads in steals with 24, two ahead of teammate Russo and six ahead of Adams.

He is tied for 18th, and tied for sixth among guards, with 39 rebounds.

He is tied for ninth, and second among guards, with eight blocks.

And with 10 turnovers, Harris is tied with teammate Cezar Guerrero for third fewest among the 25 players in the conference who have played 210 or more minutes this month, four behind New Mexico wing Sam Logwood and one behind Utah State wing Jalen Moore.

By comparison, the Lobos’ Brown has 31 turnovers in 28 fewer minutes and the Cowboys’ Adams has 30 turnovers in 75 fewer minutes.

At home on the road – Fresno State hit 30 of 60 shots at New Mexico, including 10 of 24 three-point attempts, and has shot 50 percent or better in two consecutive road games for the first time under Terry and the first time dating to the 2007-08 season.

The Bulldogs, who made 26 of 47 shots (55.3 percent) in a 79-75 victory at Wyoming on Feb. 17, had hit 50 percent or better in a conference road game just twice in their first three seasons in the MW.

Two games might not sound like a lot, but only one team this season has hit 50 percent or better in three conference road games (New Mexico), and only two other teams have done it twice (Boise State and Utah State).  

Hello, Fresno? – The Bulldogs play their final regular-season home game Wednesday against Colorado State, and Harris is not the only one at Fresno State hoping a few more people will show up at Save Mart Center to see it.

Despite putting together their best season since 2006-07, the Bulldogs are averaging only 6,081 for home games, ranking eighth of 11 in the conference.

“The only thing I can think about is that game,” said Harris, responding to an open-ended question about what is next. “We want to get as many people out as possible. We have a great team this year – one of the best in a while.

“We’re not only just talking, we’re trying to prove it. We’re playing great basketball. We’re making exciting plays. We’re defending. We’re doing everything that you want to see at a basketball game, and not only that, I think we can get better doing it. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball. I think we can still get better.”

The high attendance at Save Mart Center this season is 7,827 for the opener against Pepperdine. The Bulldogs are 15-2 at home.

Et cetera – The Lobos’ Elijah Brown put up 41 points, hitting 13 of 23 shots, including 5 of 7 on three-point attempts. He also made a run at a triple double, getting 11 rebounds and six assists. The 41 points were the most against Fresno State since Mike Jones of TCU scored 44 in a 106-81 victory over the Bulldogs in the Western Athletic tournament March 6, 1997.

▪ The 32 points by Harris moved him within 54 of tying Melvin Ely atop Fresno State’s all-time scoring list. Harris, who has 1,897 points, is averaging 25.9 points over the past seven games. With the 10 assists, the senior guard posted his seventh career double double.

▪ Fresno State scored 1.207 points per possession, its second-highest this season. It was at 1.222 in an 80-59 victory over Delaware State on Nov. 27.

▪ The 20-win season is the 20th in school history and second in five seasons under Terry.

▪ The Bulldogs shot 15 of 30 in each half, but they were much better at the three-point line in the final 20 minutes. After hitting only 3 of 11 in the first half, they knocked down 7 of 13 in the second (53.8 percent). Lewis was 4 of 4 in the second half.

▪ New Mexico coach Craig Neal: “I thought we got off to a really good start, up 20-9, and then our Achilles’ heel showed up and we didn’t get back in transition; we didn’t guard people. I just think we’ve got to get more in tune with the scheme, and guys have got to play through things. We have to learn how to guard. We’re working on it and we’re trying to do some things, but at no time in the second half did I think we got down and guarded people and stopped them.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada

FRESNO STATE 92, NEW MEXICO 82

FRESNO STATE

FG

FT

Reb

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Edo

27

4-7

4-5

2-8

0

4

12

Russo

29

4-9

5-6

1-6

2

4

13

Lewis

36

8-11

0-0

0-2

2

1

21

Guerrero

12

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Harris

40

10-22

11-17

0-3

10

3

32

Watson

3

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Taylor

30

3-7

0-0

1-2

1

3

9

Ellison III

3

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Bittner

8

1-2

0-0

0-2

1

2

3

Carter II

12

0-1

2-2

0-1

0

4

2

Totals

200

30-60

22-30

5-25

16

22

92

Percentages: FG .500, FT .733.

3-Point Goals: 10-24, .417 (Lewis 5-6, Taylor 3-7, Bittner 1-2, Harris 1-6, Watson 0-1, Russo 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 1.

Blocked Shots: 5 (Harris 2, Russo 2, Edo).

Turnovers: 7 (Lewis 2, Russo, Carter II, Guerrero, Edo).

Steals: 12 (Russo 4, Harris 3, Taylor 2, Lewis 2, Guerrero).

Technical Fouls: None.

NEW MEXICO

FG

FT

Reb

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Logwood

29

2-6

0-0

0-1

2

1

5

T Williams

35

7-9

4-8

1-6

0

4

18

Aget

11

1-2

1-2

2-3

0

4

3

Neal

38

2-6

5-6

1-5

2

5

9

Brown

39

13-23

10-13

2-11

6

2

41

Kuiper

11

0-1

0-0

0-0

1

2

0

Adams

13

2-4

0-0

0-1

1

3

4

Furstinger

20

1-1

0-0

1-4

2

1

2

Jacobs

4

0-0

0-0

0-1

1

0

0

Totals

200

28-52

20-29

8-34

15

22

82

Percentages: FG .538, FT .690.

3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (Brown 5-7, Logwood 1-2, Adams 0-1, Neal 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 2.

Blocked Shots: 1 (T. Williams).

Turnovers: 18 (Brown 6, T. Williams 4, Neal 3, Adams 2, Logwood, Furstinger, Jacobs).

Steals: 3 (T. Williams, Logwood, Brown).

Technical Fouls: None.

Fresno State

41

51

92

New Mexico

43

39

82

A—13,546.

Officials—Tommy Nunez, Shawn Lehigh, D.G. Nelson.

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