Down 10 at San Jose State, 0-12 in the Mountain West San Jose State, that’s not a good look.
It wasn’t unfamiliar to the Fresno State Bulldogs, who had won only two of their past 10 games at The Event Center. But after a solid start they were there with a good chunk of the first half gone, coming up empty against some zone, giving up too many open looks to a team that has had trouble scoring the ball, among other things.
But once the Bulldogs got the pace up at both ends of the floor they got going and got out of San Jose with a 77-57 victory on Wednesday, maintaining a share of third place in the conference race with UNLV with five to play.
Fresno State (18-8, 8-5 in the MW) got back-to-back shots from the 3-point line from Sam Bittner to snap out of a 0 of 7 funk and hit five of its last eight shots in the first half. But it turned the game at the defensive end after the Spartans had hit 9 of 11 shots to build that lead, turning up the pressure on a team that has not handled it well. San Jose State came in ranked last in the nation in turnovers per game, 17.4.
“The second half we came out and I thought we played smothering defense,” coach Rodney Terry said. “I think we took them out of everything that they wanted to do.
“They’re a good high-low team in terms of getting the ball inside. We did a good job with high hands. We did a good job on Ryan (Welage). Ryan is a tough player to match up with. I just thought we competed at a high level.”
Ray Bowles Jr. did the majority of the work on Welage, who came in averaging 18.6 points per game, third in the Mountain West.
The Spartans’ forward got to 15 points, hitting 6 of 12 shots. But he was 2 of 6 through the middle of the game when the Bulldogs gained control and only once in Mountain West play had he got up fewer shots in a game, taking nine in a loss to Air Force.
“We know he’s a capable scorer, a guy who has scored 30 points a couple of times in this league already this year,” Terry said.
“When he’s cooking, like he was a little in the first half, they’re tough to beat.”
Fresno State took care of that, putting together a 7-0 run, a 6-0 run in getting away.
From down 10 points it hit 20 of its last 39 shots in the game, 51.3 percent, getting 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot from point guard Jaron Hopkins and 19 points from Deshon Taylor.
The Spartans (3-21, 0-13), the lowest scoring team in the Mountain West, couldn’t match.
They had trouble getting even a clean look.
Down 10, the thought was simple: “We had to get some stops,” Hopkins said. “We can get out in transition whenever we want to, if we’re an active defensive team.”
The Bulldogs did that, their defense fueling their offense. After scoring .914 points per possession in the first half they hit at 1.452 points per possession in the half, pushing their lead to as many as 22 points when Bowles knocked down a 3-pointer with 8:28 to go.
From there, they coasted home.
“We put it on our defense, really,” said Hopkins, who with 20 points against the Spartans is now averaging 18.7 points over the past three games. “Coming off a break, we came out a little stagnant. We knew we were better than that.
“We came in the locker room (at halftime) got together, and came out and took them out of their stuff and popped the game open.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
COLORADO STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM ESPN 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Records: Bulldogs 18-8, 8-5 Mountain West; Rams 11-16, 4-10
- Of note: The Rams snapped a seven-game losing streak last Saturday with a 90-79 victory over San Jose State and will have had had a week to settle in with their third coach this season with Larry Eustachy and interim coach Steve Barnes on paid administrative leave while the university wraps up a climate assessment of the program. Assistant Jase Herl coached the Rams in their victory over San Jose State. Colorado State has had difficulty scoring at the offensive end, ranking last in the Mountain West in field goal percentage (41.8) and ninth in scoring (72.6). It hit 40.3 percent of its shots in when Fresno State took an 82-79 victory in overtime at Moby Arena back on Jan. 6.