Fresno State has always taken good care of the basketball under coach Rodney Terry, never ranking worse than fifth in the Mountain West and last season leading the conference in turnovers per game.
But through their first seven games, the Bulldogs have gone from first to worst.
They have turned over the ball 14.9 times per game, up from 10.5 last season when making a run to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, and nearly 20 percent of their possessions have ended with a turnover.
I feel like the biggest thing when we have turnovers is never running through the play completely, not executing the whole thing.
Fresno State forward Paul Watson
In a 78-76 overtime victory at Drake on Saturday, Fresno State had 22 – the most in the five plus-seasons under Terry, 176 games, and the most by a Fresno State team since it had 25 in a loss at Boise State during the 2009-10 season.
“We had 22 turnovers, which is something we’ve never done,” senior forward Paul Watson said incredulously. “We’ve always managed to take care of the basketball.”
If that is an issue again Tuesday when the Bulldogs play Marquette at Bradley Center, they might not be in the game long, and they know they are likely to get a bit of pressure when trying to play more efficiently at the offensive end.
“They’re going to guard hard,” Terry said. “I know (Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski) is a disciple of (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski), so they’re going to play hard-nosed defense and they’re going to play extremely hard and compete at a high level. I know he has a good talent level – they’re in the Big East so they’re going to have Big East players. We’re going to have to go and compete at a high level.”
The Bulldogs’ 22 turnovers at Drake are the most by a Mountain West team this season. Wyoming had 21 against Northern Iowa. Oddly, the Bulldogs and Cowboys both won – Fresno State 78-76 in overtime and Wyoming 81-73.
The Golden Eagles (6-2) play at a high pace at the offensive end, hitting 50 percent of their shots and averaging 87.0 points per game and 1.162 points per possession, 20th, 16th and 15th in the nation. They have some tough matchups for the Bulldogs starting with 6-foot-11 center Luke Fischer, who has hit 44 of 59 shots (74.6 percent) in averaging 13.4 points.
But they also are leading the Big East with 9.5 steals per game and are tied for fourth in forced turnovers per game with 15.3, and they have the ability to turn turnovers into points. Quickly. In their victory at Georgia, they scored 23 points off 12 turnovers, and in a Nov. 11 victory over Vanderbilt, they scored 35 points off 19 turnovers.
Fresno State (5-2) will have to take much better care of the basketball and to do that, Watson said, the Bulldogs can’t let the ball stick and will have to execute plays.
“Just continue to run through our stuff,” he said. “I feel like the biggest thing when we have turnovers is never running through the play completely, not executing the whole thing. I would say the biggest thing is continuing to stay in the offense and run the play as drawn up, and everything should be fine from there.”
The thing you can’t do against these guys is you can’t turn the ball over for points, because they want to get out in transition and go. You have to try to execute and take care of the basketball.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
That was the emphasis for the Bulldogs when they hit the floor for practice Monday morning at UW-Milwaukee. A lot of those turnovers are self-inflicted – Fresno State has played three teams ranked 182nd and lower in turnovers forced and an NAIA team in Menlo College, and the Bulldogs turned it over 14 times against the Oaks.
“The thing you can’t do against these guys is you can’t turn the ball over for points, because they want to get out in transition and go,” Terry said.
“You have to try to execute and take care of the basketball. You might not make every shot, but you have to take care of the basketball. If you give them some fuel to the fire to get up and down the floor, they’ll be shooting twos and they’ll be shooting threes in transition. They have guys that can stop right behind that line and spot up.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. MARQUETTE
- Tuesday: 4:30 p.m. at Bradley Center (18,850)
- Records: Bulldogs 5-2, Golden Eagles 6-2
- TV/radio: CBSSN/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Marquette is tied for 14th in the nation in assists and 16th in scoring, averaging 18.6 assists and 87.0 points.