Weber State was averaging 90.3 points per game, had been in triple digits three times in seven games. Two were against Bethesda and Benedictine, dubious at best as far as level of competition goes. But the third of those games was against BYU last out, a win, the Wildcats’ second in a row and fifth in six games.
But Fresno State took them apart in a 71-52 victory on Wednesday night at the Save Mart Center, the Bulldogs’ pressure up the floor and man-to-man defense causing a lot of issues for a team that had not had much difficulty scoring.
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Weber State got to 52 points only with a banked 3-pointer with 28 seconds to go, its fewest points in a game since a 67-49 loss at Stanford in 2016.
The Wildcats hit just 33.3 percent of their shots, their lowest since hitting 30.2 percent in a loss to Denver in 2016.
The Bulldogs took them away from what they want to do, and do best.
Weber State also had just three assists on its 17 baskets and an assisted basket percentage of 17.6, its lowest since 12.5 in a loss at Northern Arizona in 2014.
“They haven’t played anybody that plays good defense yet, so we showed them what that’s about,” said forward Nate Grimes, who in just 20 minutes on the floor scored 14 points with seven rebounds, one assist, two blocked shots and two steals.
The Bulldogs (6-2) had some problems early at the offensive end. They turned it over 12 times in the first half and struggled through a stretch where they missed nine shots in a row and 10 of 12. Coach Justin Hutson kept the Bulldogs in the locker room at halftime for a while, long enough to fix those issues, and once they did they were able to extend a lead that was 10 at the break.
“I think we had 12 turnovers at halftime and we ended up with 17,” he said. “That’s much better, five in the second half. Didn’t like the five in the second half, but the 12, most of them were unforced, forcing it into places that weren’t open.
“I said, ‘We’re much better players than we’re showing and we need to make sure we move the ball and make better decisions if we want to come out on top.’“
The Bulldogs led by as many as 24, inside two minutes to play.
They also continued to find some consistent play behind Deshon Taylor, Sam Bittner and Braxton Huggins, a key in a seven-game home stand that now includes victories over Pacific, Cal Poly and Weber State, with Long Beach State visiting Saturday.
Grimes hit 7 of 11 shots in scoring a season-high 14 points in one of his most productive games of the season. Guard Noah Blackwell returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the past five games and in a season-high 37 minutes hit 5 of 10 shots in scoring 16 points with three assists and two steals.
The Fresno State starters hit 24 of 52 shots, 46.2 percent.
“We have some good players,” Hutson said. “Basketball is funny like that – you never know whose night it’s going to be. We definitely have some seniors that are leading us, for sure, but we’ve got some good players and guys come back and they work hard in practice.
“When they work hard in practice and they watch film and they see some of the things they’re doing really well and some of the things that are the reason they’re not playing as much. It’s very gratifying to see somebody like Noah and Nate come back and have two good practices and then have some success on the floor.”