Fresno State guard Deshon Taylor, a first-team all-conference selection last season and a preseason all-conference selection this season, will be sidelined for at least one month with a dislocated left elbow suffered in a practice mishap.
The loss of Taylor is a big hit for the Bulldogs and coach Justin Hutson, who are 6-2 and on a four-game winning streak headed into a non-conference game against Long Beach State on Saturday at the Save Mart Center.
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Taylor is averaging 18.0 points and 5.0 assists per game, sixth and tied for second in the Mountain West Conference, and the key piece at the offensive end.
In an 81-78 overtime victory over Pacific, the senior took over the game down the stretch of regulation and into overtime.
In the final four minutes, he hit a pair of free throws after he was fouled on a drive, which were followed by a drive and score, another drive and score and a drive and 3-point play.
That last basket and foul shot came out of a timeout with 11 seconds to go after Pacific had taken its first and only lead in the game, and it put the Bulldogs up by two.
Then in the overtime Taylor hit forward Nate Grimes on the block for a lay up. After a miss by the Tigers, Taylor fired a pass to forward Sam Bittner in the right corner for a wide open three that went down. He then got the ball again to Grimes for another lay up.
“I didn’t want to lose,” he said, after the game.
A big piece for Taylor is an ability to get into the lane, kick the ball out to an open shooter, score through contact or draw a foul. He set a school record with 240 free throw attempts last season and with 56 this season is ranked third in the conference.
That will be tested when he returns at some point in the first half of Mountain West play, taking contact on his way to the basket.
The Bulldogs after playing Long Beach State do have a 10-day break before playing Cal at the Save Mart Center on Wednesday, Dec. 19. They open conference play at San Jose State on Jan. 2, then get Colorado State at home on Jan. 5 and play at Utah State on Jan. 9.
Fresno State could weather those games – San Jose State is 2-6 and Colorado State is 4-5 with a game Saturday against San Houston State, though Utah State is off to a 7-2 start with a game on Saturday against Weber State.
The Bulldogs then run into No. 6 Nevada at the Save Mart Center on Jan. 12.
Taylor last season averaged 24.0 points in two games against the Wolf Pack, which went 29-8 and reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, including 32 points with two rebounds, four assists and one steal in a 102-92 loss in Reno.
With the senior guard down, Hutson will have to manipulate a roster short on depth and lacking consistency. Taylor is playing 36.1 minutes per game, second in the Mountain West behind Wyoming guard Justin James at 37.0.
Guard Braxton Huggins is leading Fresno State in scoring with 18.8 points per game, and Noah Blackwell and New Williams have played 26.9 and 26.0 minutes per game. The Bulldogs also have Johnny McWilliams available and sophomore Myles Fitzgerald-Warren, who was expected to redshirt this season.