Next for Fresno State is Wyoming on Wednesday night at Save Mart Center, and the teams have played some close games since the Bulldogs joined the Mountain West.
Only two of eight in the series have been decided by 10 or more points. Two were decided by four points, three by five and one by six – with two going to overtime, one of those to triple OT.
None of that should bother the Bulldogs in the least. They are, after all, on a remarkable run of creating and taking advantage of breaks in close games … or just good fortune.
A 77-76 victory over Nevada was the 11th win in a row for Fresno State in conference games decided by one possession.
Who is willing to stay disciplined and, really, who is going to blink first? The team that can stay disciplined and continue to guard the matchup that you’re supposed to, play your principles and keep everything simple, that’s usually the team that walks away with the win.
Fresno State senior Paul Watson
The last loss in that situation was 75-73 in overtime at UNLV on Jan. 25, 2014. Since then, they are 3-0 in games decided by three points, 3-0 in those decided by two points and, with the win over the Wolf Pack, 5-0 in games decided by one.
The Bulldogs also have won their past three decided by four points.
“When it gets down to that stretch, late-game situations, being able to walk away with a win like that, it’s the team that can execute as much as possible down the stretch,” said senior forward Paul Watson, a part of all of those wins. “Who is willing to stay disciplined and, really, who is going to blink first? That’s something we try to do – stay even-keeled throughout the whole game – and in late-game situations we’re able to do that.”
That would seem easier to do at home than on the road, but it hasn’t much mattered. Five of those games have been at home, five on the road and one on a neutral floor at the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
In the Bulldogs’ run of Mountain West victories in games decided by a single possession, five of the 11 have been at home, five have been on the road and one has been on a neutral floor at the conference tournament.
“That’s what this league is about,” coach Rodney Terry said. “This league is about possession games, and it’s about hopefully being able to make some plays to finish some of those games. We’ve been in a lot of those games since we’ve been here, and it all comes down to execution on both ends of the floor, trying to get some stops when you need a meaningful stop and then execute some meaningful plays down the stretch.
“The first group we had here, we were in a ton of close ball games and we couldn’t make a play to finish the game. You have to have players. Players make plays at the end of the game. Coaches just put them in the right spot, then they have to make a shot, they have to make a play at the rim, they have to make plays.”
To avoid a similar scenario against the Cowboys (11-4, 1-1), the Bulldogs (9-5, 1-1) must stay in front of an offense that is averaging 78.1 points and has made a conference-leading 139 3-pointers.
We’ve been in a lot of those games since we’ve been here and it all comes down to execution on both ends of the floor, trying to get some stops when you need a meaningful stop and then execute some meaningful plays down the stretch.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
“They’re playing faster than they’ve ever played before,” Terry said. “They’re getting up and down the floor, so we have to get back and try to get our defense set with some shooter defense because they can really shoot the basketball.”
Et cetera – Jahmel Taylor is leading the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage at 51.9, indicating things are back to normal after the junior guard had to play without his prescription goggles and went 0 for 7 in a Dec. 20 loss at Oregon. Taylor had hit 35 of 59 3-point attempts (59.3 percent) before the Oregon game and is 6 of 13 (46.3 percent) since.
“I’ll just say I’m happy to have them back,” he said. “I know that Oregon game, I thought about it a lot. I talked to my dad before the game, and he told me not to think too much on it. I think after probably my second shot I was a little worried about making the shot more than just kind of playing. It affected me a lot. That was the first game for a while I went 0-for-anything. It felt good having them back.”
▪ The Cowboys are 3-2 in their past five games, with difficulty taking care of the ball. They averaged 17.8 turnovers in wins over Troy, DePaul and Air Force and losses to USC and UNLV. Fresno State is third in the conference forcing turnovers at 14.6 per game. In the victory over Nevada, they forced the Wolf Pack into a season-high 17 turnovers, leading to 21 points.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. WYOMING
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 9-5, 1-1 Mountain West; Cowboys 11-4, 1-1
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Notable: Wyoming is coming off an 81-75 loss at UNLV. The Cowboys lead the MW in field-goal percentage defense (37.8); the Bulldogs lead in field-goal percentage at 48.1.