Fresno State has played some solid games at the offensive end this season, hitting 50 percent of its shots in 18 of its 36 halves of basketball going into a Mountain West Conference game on Saturday against New Mexico.
The Bulldogs, who had been not quite right there the past two weeks, topped that by a big margin. Twice. But even knocking down 69.2 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes they could not get away from the Lobos. They led, they trailed and down the stretch, with both teams hitting at a high clip, it was going to take a stop or two and it was the Bulldogs who came up with them in a 89-80 victory at the Save Mart Center.
New Mexico forward Makuach Maluach, who came in averaging 7.2 points a game and got 21 against the Bulldogs, found himself free under the basket with 6:46 to go.
But forward Nate Grimes closed and swatted away his shot, snatched the rebound and gave the Bulldogs a chance to extend a run that was 6-0 and grew to 14-0.
Much of that came from Deshon Taylor, who went scoreless in the first half when the Bulldogs were hitting just about everything and finished with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists.
From the block by Grimes, Taylor made three of the Bulldogs’ final four baskets on a 3-pointer and two drives to the basket and kept pressing. He got to the free throw line 10 times, hitting seven of his foul shots.
The Bulldogs hit 14 of 23 shots in the second half after hitting 18 of 26 in the first, 65.3 percent for the game, a Save Mart Center record.
Fresno State (13-6, 3-3 in the MW) had hit 74.1 percent of its shots in the second half of a victory over Cal State Monterey Bay (20 of 27), a lower division program. Against Division I opponents, it had hit 63.6 percent in the second half of victories at Cal Poly and against Air Force (14 of 22).
Against the Lobos, the Bulldogs missed their first two shots before hitting six in a row and 15 of 16. They were getting post touches with Bryson Williams and Terrell Carter II, easy drives to the rim from Ray Bowles and Jaron Hopkins.
They also hit at the 3-point line – Sam Bittner got the first one, Jahmel Taylor hit his first three. And, led by just 42-40 at the break. New Mexico (8-11, 3-3) got a lead, pushed it to as many as five points at 64-59 with 10:14 to go before the Bulldogs got away the final six minutes.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
- Wednesday: 8 p.m. at Viejas Arena
- TV/radio: ESPNU or ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940)
- Records: Bulldogs 13-6, 3-3 Mountain West; Aztecs 11-4, 3-1
- Of note: San Diego State played Saturday night at Boise State in a battle of two of the conference’s top teams, the Broncos second in the Mountain West at 4-1 and the Aztecs third at 3-1. San Diego State is 7-1 at home, the loss 63-62 to Cal on Dec. 9, 2017. Fresno State won at Viejas Arena last season 63-55 and have won three of the past four match ups including a 68-63 win in the championship game of the 2016 Mountain West Tournament. The Aztecs again are one of the top defensive teams in the league, ranking first in scoring defense (64.7 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (39.8) and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (32.1). Devin Watson, a 6-foot-1 guard, is leading San Diego State in scoring at 13.2 points per game.