Fresno State Basketball

Bulldogs beat up Northwestern at both ends of the court at Wooden Legacy

Fresno State guard Noah Blackwell, left, defends against Northwestern guard Anthony Gaines during the first half of the Bulldogs’ 78-59 victory over the Wildcats at the Wooden Legacy. Fresno State plays Long Beach State on Saturday Dec. 8, 2018 at the Save Mart Center, looking for a fifth win in a row.
Fresno State guard Noah Blackwell, left, defends against Northwestern guard Anthony Gaines during the first half of the Bulldogs’ 78-59 victory over the Wildcats at the Wooden Legacy. Fresno State plays Long Beach State on Saturday Dec. 8, 2018 at the Save Mart Center, looking for a fifth win in a row. AP

Fresno State drilled Northwestern 78-59 on Thursday in the quarterfinal round at the Wooden Legacy, the Bulldogs winning big on both ends of the floor.

It was Fresno State’s first victory over a Power Five conference opponent since a win at Oregon State in 2016 and only the Bulldogs’ second since beating Utah at the Save Mart Center in 2011.

With Braxton Huggins scoring 17 points to lead five players in double-digits, the Bulldogs hit 50 percent of their shots including .478 on 3-pointers.

Northwestern Fresno St Basketball
Fresno State forward Nate Grimes played a career-high 38 minutes in the Bulldogs’ victory over San Diego State, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2019 at the Save Mart Center. Grimes is averaging 10;.7 rebounds in six Mountain West games, ranking second in the conference. Kyusung Gong ASSOCIATED PRESS

At the other end of the floor, they forced 15 turnovers that led to 14 points and allowed Northwestern to hit just 35.3 percent of its shots.

Fresno State (2-1) had lost at TCU last out, the Horned Frogs erasing a halftime deficit by hitting 20 of their 3- shots in the second half.

“Coach (Justin Hutson) wanted us to refocus on our defense,” said forward Sam Bittner, who hit 4 of 5 shots, all at the 3-point line, in scoring 14 points. “We thought that we gave one away at TCU. Obviously, TCU is a great program and they have great players, but we thought that we let up on defense. So coach just wanted us to refocus on our defensive intensity and really pressure the ball, and that’s what we went out there and did.

“We wanted to make them uncomfortable for 94 feet.”

Fresno State will play Miami in the tournament semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday on ESPN2 — the Hurricanes beat LaSalle in the opening game of the Wooden Legacy 85-49, the games played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

Northwestern Fresno St Basketball (3)
Fresno State guard New Williams, left, shoots over Northwestern guard Anthony Gaines during the Bulldogs 78-59 victory over the Wildcats at the Wooden Legacy tournament Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018, in Fullerton. Kyusung Gong ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Wildcats were 3-0 this season and had had hit .443 percent of their shots in home wins over New Orleans, American and Binghamton. But from the 13:17 mark in the first half Thursday to 17:06 in the second, Northwestern hit just 4 of 24 shots, the Bulldogs pushing their lead from four points to 19 and out to 24 at its highest.

Huggins hit 4 of 9 shots for the Bulldogs, who hit 50 percent of their shots in the game even going just 2 of 9 in the final 7:30. New Williams added 14 points, along with Bittner, and Deshon Taylor and Nate Grimes each scored 12 points.

But that offense all spun off the Bulldogs’ defensive effort.

“We wanted to come in not just having tempo on the offensive end, we wanted to have it on the defensive end also,” Hutson said.

“We were better today. We followed the game plan and we were better. I’m excited to get the win, but we have a good team we have to play at 11 a.m.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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