In December, when Fresno State started to take off, Terrell Carter II had a big piece in it.
He was getting 20-plus minutes a game, was a presence in the post and put up 10 points at Long Beach State, 16 against Cal State Bakersfield and at Cal Poly, 19 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Bulldogs won all of those games with ease. But then they ran into Oregon, tough matchups one through five, and Carter’s run ended.
Over the next eight games he played less than 10 minutes on five occasions and never more than 13. On his birthday, Jan. 6, he got just two minutes in a win at Colorado State. Didn’t get a shot, didn’t get a rebound, didn’t score a point. Most important, he didn’t get down.
The result: Fresno State 69, UNLV 63.
Carter came off the bench on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center at the 12:53 mark in the first half and really changed the dynamic for the Bulldogs against UNLV. They played big with Carter and Bryson Williams on the floor together, a piece to the puzzle that started to pick up four games back in a loss to Boise State and to really take off in the Bulldogs’ victory at San Diego State with Williams and Nate Grimes.
“Those guys, they’re playing really well together,” coach Rodney Terry said. “When Terrell comes in, Bryson is looking right down that chute for the big fella and the big fellla knows it, too.
“They work really well together, just like Bryson I think works really well with Nate. We’re getting really good chemistry between those guys.”
Williams had two assists against Boise State, both post feeds to Carter. He had three assists in a victory over New Mexico, two to Carter. In the victory at San Diego State he had three assists, all when working high-to-low with Grimes. Williams, a Roosevelt High product, then had a career-high four assists in the win over UNLV, all of them working high-to-low with Carter.
It works the other way, as well. Grimes had an assist at San Diego State, feeding Williams for a jumper from about 15 feet. Carter had two assists against the Rebels, one of them to Williams and the other a layup for point guard Jaron Hopkins.
Williams has 12 assists in the past four games. In the 17 games before that, he had 11.
Carter had six assists, but he hadn’t had two in a game since a loss last season at Oregon.
Grimes had three assists in 29 career games before finding Williams at San Diego State.
A key to the recent success is Williams expanding his game and stepping out to knock down mid-range jump shots.
Williams hit 10 of 14 shots in the victory over the Rebels, six from outside the paint.
Then there’s Carter. Williams explains what he’s been doing lately: “With Terrell, he’s a big matchup problem for a lot of teams and I know he’s a real good finisher and I believe in him. I know he’s going to catch that pass. I know if I throw it in, he’s going to take care of it.”
For Carter, it was opportunity and delivery. Compare his first seven Mountain West games with the 21 minutes he played against UNLV:
Field goals: 10 of 21 in the first seven games; 8 of 12 against UNLV
Free throws: 1 of 2; 2 of 2
Offensive rebounds: 1; 2
Total rebounds: 6; 6
Assists: 0; 2
Blocks: 5; 2
Points: 21; 18
“We always say to our guys that we need every single guy,” Terry said. “Any given night could be your opportunity; you have to be ready for that. (Tuesday), he was ready for that. He has put the work in and has had a great attitude the whole time. He was ready to respond.”
D, too …
UNLV went into the game averaging 87.4 points per game, the most in the Mountain West by a good margin, 5.8 more points per game than Nevada in second.
The Rebels didn’t get anywhere close to that against the Bulldogs – 29 points in the first half, 34 in the second, a season-low 63 points in the game.
That 24.4-point differential is the second best defensive effort a Mountain West team has had against team a team that led or in the Rebels’ case is leading the conference in scoring, at least since the Bulldogs have been in the league.
26.2: Wyoming 52-50 over Boise State, 76.2 ppg in 2014
24.4: Fresno State 69-63 over UNLV, 87.4 ppg in 2018
24.2: Wyoming 59-48 over Colorado State, 72,2 ppg in 2015
23.8: San Diego State 70-56 over Nevada, 79.8 ppg in 2017
23.2: New Mexico 60-50 over Boise State, 73.2 ppg in 2013
20.4: Utah State 72-59 over Colorado State, 79.4 ppg in 2016
Terry on Carter: “Terrell is a great teammate. He has always had a great positive attitude, whether things are going his way or not going his way. He has always been an unbelievable teammate. He is a guy who is always pulling for guys and trying to teach the young guys how hard they have to compete and how physical they need to be. Anytime you have a guy with that kind of personality, it shows a lot of who he is as a person. Away from basketball, he is going to be a successful guy in life because of that personality and the way he carries himself.”
It happens to the other guys, too …
UNLV, which usually travels via charter plane to its road games, had some Fresno State-like road adventures getting to the Save Mart Center.
The Rebels’ flight to Fresno on Monday night was scrapped due to a mechanical issue with the plane and the team had to take a commercial flight on Tuesday morning.
A few hours later, they were on the floor.
A few hours after that, they were on a bus back to Las Vegas.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
UTAH STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Records: Bulldogs 15-6, 5-3 Mountain West; Aggies 10-11, 3-5
- Of note: The Aggies played Air Force on Wednesday, looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Utah State started Mountain West play 3-1 including an 81-79 overtime victory over Fresno State on Jan. 3 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Bulldogs were up by 10 points with 4:12 remaining in that game, but the Aggies rallied behind Koby McEwan. The Utah State guard scored a game-high 28 points and averaged 22.0 in the first four conference games, but has been held to just 12.3 in that four-game losing streak. Utah State is 1-7 on the road this season, 1-3 away from home in conference play. The defense has been suspect in the four-game losing streak – the Aggies have allowed 80-plus points in losses to Colorado State, at Nevada and to Wyoming. Nevada and Wyoming can score, but Colorado State started the week ranked ninth in the Mountain West in scoring and last in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage.