It took two, maybe three minutes and Fresno State was in deep. The Bulldogs got a lot of zone and some switching defenses from Boise State, and didn’t handle it well. They had Terrell Carter II and Jaron Hopkins and not a lot of answers in a very rough first half, hitting 29.6 percent of their shots including a dreadful 0.0 on eight attempts from the 3-point line.
A rally didn’t appear likely, not after their lowest scoring half of the season.
But the Bulldogs, down 10 still at the under-12 timeout in the second half, did make a run back getting to within one before absorbing a 70-64 Mountain West Conference men’s basketball loss on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center.
“This time of year, like I said to our guys, you can’t give 20 minutes away,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We didn’t come out the first half and execute the way we needed to and we’re playing catchup the whole time and it’s really hard to come back and beat a good team, no matter if you’re at home or not.”
The stops that had been pivotal in their run back into the game evaporated after the Bulldogs got within 55-54 with 3:58 to go on a 3-pointer by Deshon Taylor.
Alex Hobbs got to the basket and was fouled by Hopkins, completing a 3-point play. He scored on the Broncos’ next trip down the floor, as well. Lexus Williams hit a pair of free throws and even when they caught a break, they couldn’t capitalize.
Chandler Hutchison went to the line with 1:35 to go and missed both foul shots. But Chris Sengfelder grabbed the rebound off the second miss and scored.
Hutchison, the preseason player of the year in the conference, scored a game-high 21 points while hitting just 3 of 12 shots from the floor. At the line, he was 15 of 18 including 11 of 14 down the final 12 minutes.
Boise State (14-3, 4-1 in the MW) also out-rebounded the Bulldogs 7-1 in the final four minutes.
The Bulldogs (12-6, 2-3) couldn’t sustain a run away from and out of that first half, where they had so much trouble dealing with the Broncos’ defense.
But they walked right into it.
“At the end of the day, without looking at the tape, I thought we settled a lot,” Terry said. “We said going into this game we can’t settle. They’re playing zone for a reason. They’re playing zone because they can’t guard us man-to-man. When they’re playing zone we can’t settle for jump shots and make it a pickup game.
“We have to do what we want to do in terms of our execution. When we did that we got the ball where we needed to get it and we got high-percentage shots. But when we settled and let those guys off the hook, you can’t do that against that kind of team.”
The Bulldogs had two answers – Carter planting himself on the block or point guard Hopkins driving the basketball and if they weren’t able to score no one did. They were stymied. Carter, who had played only 9, 6, 11 and 2 minutes in the Bulldogs’ first four Mountain West games, was on the floor for seven in the first half. He hit 2 of 3 shots, blocked three shots, had two rebounds. Hopkins was 4 of 4 going at the rim.
The rest of the Bulldogs were a combined 2 of 19, 10.5 percent. Deshon Taylor led Fresno State with 15 points, but he was 0 of 5 in the first half and 2 of 13 in the game, 2 of 6 at the 3-point line.
Fresno State missed its last eight shots of the first half, going scoreless for 5:23 and down 32-21 at halftime.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
NEW MEXICO AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- TV/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Records: Bulldogs 12-6, 2-3 Mountain West; Lobos 7-10, 2-2
- Of note: New Mexico plays Wyoming on Wednesday at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit – and goes into that game off a 33-point victory over San Jose State. The Lobos have taken over the top spot in the Mountain West in steals, avereaging 7.8 per game. The Bulldogs have led the conference in the past three seasons and were leading the MW after 13 games with 8.6 steals per game. New Mexico also is leading the conference in 3-point field goal attempts with 536 – Chris McNeal has hit 31.5 percent of his 108 shots and Anthony Mathis has hit 45.2 percent of his 93 attempts. That is an area Fresno State has struggled. The Bulldogs going into their game on Tuesday against Boise State were ranked 10th in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense with opponents hitting 39.0 percent of their shots (124 fo 318).