Fresno State had nothing. With a chance to extend a three-game winning streak and take advantage of a stretch where the Bulldogs are playing five of their next six against teams at or under .500 in the Mountain West, they weren’t close.
The Bulldogs could barely make a shot, got beat at the defensive end and lost 78-65 at Utah State on Saturday night at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan.
Utah State came in tied for 10th, or last, in the conference with San Jose State. But in winning it did what the Bulldogs couldn’t – score the basketball.
The Aggies, while turning over the ball 19 times, hit 22 of 39 shots, 56.4 percent.
Utah State was 29 of 39 at the foul line, 32 of those free throws coming in the second half. Fresno State was called for eight fouls in the first half, 20 in the second.
Fresno State (13-8, 5-4) hit 35 percent and it didn’t matter if the Bulldogs were in the paint, inside or outside the 3-point line. Not much went down.
The Bulldogs were 2 of 18 beyond the 3-point line and 18 of 42 inside.
Freshman Bryson Williams was 6 of 11 in scoring a career-high 18 points and Jaron Hopkins 6 of 10 in scoring 15, but the rest of the Bulldogs struggled.
Fresno State had come in leading the conference and tied for 36th in the nation in field-goal percentage. In their first 20 games, the Bulldogs hit 48 percent of their shots.
Deshon Taylor led Fresno State with 21 points, 12 coming from the foul line. Utah State is 9-11 and 3-6.
Stat of the game – Utah State hit 56.4 percent shooting percentage was the highest against the Bulldogs this season, and the best since New Mexico hit 59 percent (23 of 39) in a 76-64 victory over the Bulldogs on Dec. 31, 2014.
Fresno State forced 19 turnovers, one off its season high. Texas-San Antonio had 20 in a season-opening loss to the Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center.
In a three-game winning streak Fresno State had held Boise State, Colorado State and Nevada to a combined 71 of 182, 39 percent.
Quotable – Fresno State coach Rodney Terry: “We got great looks in the first half. We missed a lot of point-blank shots. We got the ball where we wanted it to start the game and a better part of the first half and then we got some great open looks for guys that are capable of making shots for us and we didn’t make them.
“Sometimes you let your offense affect your defense and I thought that happened to us a little bit as well. When guys weren’t making shots then they didn’t bring it the way they needed to bring it on the defensive end the way they have over the past couple of ball games.”
Notable – Cullen Russo, who missed two games while working through an ongoing academic issue and did not play at Nevada, made a return to the floor.
In 12 minutes, he was 0 of 4 including 0 of 2 at the 3-point line and 0 of 3 on free throws. He had three rebounds at the defensive end and one assist, but played to a plus-minus of minus-9.
Terry wasn’t ready to address where that might go – sophomore Sam Bittner started for a fourth consecutive game and played 13 minutes.
“He’s a part of our rotation,” Terry said. “He has been a part of our rotation all year, so we’re not making anything of that.
“There is no story with that situation. He’s in the rotation. I couldn’t tell you how many minutes Sam is going to play. He’s in the rotation. There’s an opportunity for him to play. There is no story with that. You know what I mean? He’s no different than any player that we have in our rotation. That’s where that’s at.”
Coming up – The Bulldogs have designs on a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, but their seeding for the conference tournament is going to be very important. Unless they figure a few things out come March, these losses at San Jose State, Air Force and Utah State could leave them in a poor position.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. AIR FORCE
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 13-8, 5-4 Mountain West; Falcons 10-11, 3-5
- Webcast/radio: Root Sports, Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Notable: Air Force will come in well rested and off a victory over San Diego State on Tuesday, and the Falcons sliced up the Bulldogs’ defense when these teams met Jan. 11 at Clune Arena. Air Force hit 51.9 percent of its shots in its 81-72 victory, the highest allowed by the Bulldogs in conference play. Hayden Graham led the Falcons with 21 points and Trevor Lyons added 18. Air Force also out-rebounded the Bulldogs by 11, 33 to 22, and had 11 offensive rebounds.
UTAH STATE 78, FRESNO STATE 65
FRESNO STATE (13-8, 5-4 Mountain West): Williams 6-11 6-8 18, Bittner 0-3 0-0 0, J.Taylor 1-7 0-1 3, D.Taylor 4-10 12-16 21, Watson 3-9 0-2 6, Edo 1-6 0-0 2, Russo 0-4 0-3 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, McWilliams 0-0 0-0 0, Hopkins 6-10 3-4 15. Totals 21-60 21-34 65.
UTAH STATE (9-11, 3-6): Dargenton 0-1 0-0 0, Janicek 6-9 2-5 14, Moore 5-9 6-6 17, Merrill 1-2 2-2 5, McEwen 6-7 7-8 22, Q.Taylor 2-2 2-4 6, Barnaba 0-1 0-0 0, Brito 0-3 0-0 0, Rector 2-3 10-14 14, Pearre 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-39 29-39 78.
Halftime — Utah State 27-23. 3-Point Goals — Fresno State 2-18 (D.Taylor 1-4, J.Taylor 1-5, Edo 0-2, Russo 0-2, Bittner 0-2, Watson 0-3), Utah State 5-11 (McEwen 3-4, Merrill 1-1, Moore 1-3, Brito 0-1, Rector 0-1, Barnaba 0-1). Fouled Out — J.Taylor, Williams, Hopkins. Rebounds — Fresno State 26 (Watson 7), Utah State 38 (Janicek, Merrill, McEwen 8). Assists — Fresno State 10 (Watson 3), Utah State 13 (Merrill 5). Total Fouls — Fresno Statate 28, Utah St. 25.