When Fresno State beat UNLV a few weeks back, Bryson Williams put up 20 points, had four rebounds.
It was lost a bit with Terrell Carter II coming off the bench to score 18 and the Bulldogs’ defense limiting one of the highest scoring teams in the Mountain West Conference well under its season average, 24.4 points under.
But Williams on Wednesday again crushed the Rebels’ more heralded bigs and with Jaron Hopkins and Deshon Taylor also challenging them at every opportunity the Bulldogs raced off to a 77-64 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center that was never really that close, their 20th win this season and their fifth in a row.
Williams in just 25 minutes hit 9 of 13 shots in scoring 20 points, going to the bench with 11:22 to go after picking up a fourth foul.
At that point, the Roosevelt High grad was outscoring UNLV center Brandon McCoy (seven points) and forward Shakur Juiston (eight) by himself.
“He did a nice job of slowing down and really getting into his offense against two pretty good interior guys,” coach Rodney Terry said.
“They’re two pretty good players, but Bryson Williams is a heck of a player, too, though. He’s one of the better big men in this league, too, and he went right at those guys.”
McCoy and Juiston, a McDonald’s All-American and a year ago the junior college player of the year, eventually caught up to Williams. Both finished with a quiet double-double, McCoy with 12 and 11, Juiston with 11 and 10. But the Bulldogs (20-8, 10-5 in the MW) kept the Rebels well back after taking a 43-30 lead into halftime.
“We were just trying to make it as hard as possible for them,” Hopkins said. “We tried to make them play defense and some of the things that we wanted to get done we got done.”
That, it was obvious very quickly, was attack the Rebels’ interior and the 7-foot McCoy, who despite his length and athleticism is a downy defender.
In the first match up, the Bulldogs had scored 40 points in the paint and the Rebels (19-9, 8-7) had scored 42. This time, those numbers reflected the Bulldogs’ dominance inside and in the game: the Bulldogs had a 44-26 advantage.
That included Hopkins going to the rim, scoring five baskets on lay ups or dunks in scoring 20 points. That was Deshon Taylor scoring four of his five baskets in the paint and getting to the foul line 14 times, where he scored 11 of his 22 points.
That included Williams, challenging the 7-foot McCoy and Juiston or 6-11 Cheickna Dembele or 6-11 Cheeikh Mbacke Diong off the bench.
“Bryson, he’s very versatile,” said Hopkins, who also had nine rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and one steal. “He can score with his right hand, his left hand. He can score around you, over you. He’s one of the better low-post scorers in the conference.”
With the Bulldogs also taking UNLV apart at the defensive end, they were able to push their lead to as many as 22 points with 5:41 to go.
UNLV, leading the Mountain West in scoring at 84.7 points per game, managed to hit just 17 of 57 shots (29.8 percent) including 2 of 16 at the 3-point line (12.5 percent).
The Bulldogs held them well under their scoring average the first time around and the Rebels came in averaging 84.7 points per game, 20.7 under.
Fresno State had 13 steals, its high in Mountain West play. Deshon Taylor had three, Sam Bittner, Ray Bowles Jr., Nate Grimes and Carter all had two. It also forced 17 turnovers and stymied the Rebels’ transition game. UNLV scored just two fast-break points.
“Our guys have really bought into playing really hard on that end of the floor and it has been a game-changer for us,” Terry said. “It changed the game for us in terms of creating opportunities for our offense. But any time you hold a team like this – they score the ball 85 points a game – to 29 percent field goal percentage that’s pretty dog gone good.
“They have a talented ball club. I thought our guys attacked the game early with really good urgency. The 50-50-balls, we got on the floor and got after loose balls. From a coaching standpoint, I can’t be more pleased with our effort and how hard guys tried to compete.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
WYOMING AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- TV/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM ESPN 940), KGST (AM ESPN Deportes 1600)
- Records: Bulldogs 20-8, 10-5 Mountain West; Cowboys 17-11, 8-7
- Of note: The Cowboys absorbed a costly 119-114 loss to New Mexico on Tuesday, falling out of a tie for fourth in the Mountain West Conference. Wyoming hit 57.8 percent of its shots in the game including 56.5 percent at the 3-point line, but its defense was ... not good. New Mexico went into the game seventh in the conference in field goal percentage (44.4)and third in scoring (80.6 ppg) points, and hit hit 37 of 60 shots (61.7 percent) in putting up the most points it has this season against a Division I opponent. The Lobos opened the season with a 147-76 victory over Northern New Mexico. The Cowboys have lost four of their past six games, a streak that started with an 80-62 loss to the Bulldogs on Feb. 3 in Laramie, Wyo. Fresno State held Justin James, the Cowboys’ leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, to just nine points. James was 3 of 10, 2 of 5 at the 3-point line.