Fresno State got a gift with No. 10 Nevada intent on taking shots from the 3-point line.
But the Bulldogs were far too soft to capitalize on the Wolf Pack’s 27 misses from three or an outlandish number of opportunities they were afforded on Saturday in a 74-64 loss to the Wolf Pack before 9,586 at the Save Mart Center.
“Very experienced group,” coach Justin Hutson said of the Wolf Pack, who started five seniors. “The adjective for them is ‘tough,’ mentally and physically. We have a couple of dunks that can steer it another way and then we get blocked or get fouled and make one free throw and then they come down and finish.
“That’s a little discouraging, but credit to our guys that they kept fighting. We kept coming and coming and coming, but it was a lot of big plays that you have to give hats off to Nevada that they made.”
Fresno State (12-4, 3-1 in the Mountain West) hit 43.1 percent of its shots but missed 13 layups, some that were barely contested. On some they just didn’t go up strong enough to finish a play.
Fresno State also turned over the ball 13 times, which led to 21 points for the Wolf Pack.
The Bulldogs gave up a season-high 17 offensive rebounds, which led to 27 points.
And they were 10 of 17 at the foul line, just 58.8 percent.
Nevada (16-1, 3-1) took advantage everywhere the Bulldogs fell flat and just about every time they could not get out of their own way.
“That experienced team came in and had seven turnovers on the road – we had 13,” Hutson said. “That experienced team came in and had 17 offensive rebounds. Those are things that we work on, something that we preach. Not only do we talk about it, we work on it, and that’s what experienced teams do.
“We pressure and they come in and they had less turnovers and more rebounds so they gave themselves more opportunities. They don’t beat themselves.”
The Bulldogs, not so much …
Fresno State actually had more possessions, 68 to 67. But it struggled to make a play when it had a chance to cut deeper into its second-half deficit.
Down six with 7:50 to go, Noah Blackwell turned over the ball with a lazy pass toward Deshon Taylor, Jordan Caroline stepping between the two to steal the ball. At the other end, the Wolf Pack knocked down one of its rare 3s.
The next trip down the floor, down nine, the Bulldogs turned it over again when Laz Rojas was called for an offensive foul.
Down seven with 6:54 to go, Caleb Martin missed a 3. But Trey Porter grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. Porter missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Wolf Pack got the rebound again and this time Caroline followed with a resounding dunk.
The Bulldogs had it down to five with 2:06 to go when Braxton Huggins scored on a drive to the basket. They got a stop when Cody Martin was called for an offensive foul at the other end. But Huggins, who led the Bulldogs with 25 points, fired up a 3 that was barely in the vicinity of the rim.
Nevada then missed a 3 – it was just 10 of 37 at the 3-point line (27 percent), taking more shots from three than from two (37 to 28) even though it had a decided advantage with its length and strength down low.
Caroline got the offensive rebound and was fouled, but he made the first and missed the second. No matter, the Wolf Pack pulled another offensive rebound that led to two foul shots and a 72-64 lead inside of one minute to play
Caroline finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, seven of those rebounds at the offensive end.
“I told our guys they’ve done that to a lot of guys over the past few years,” Hutson said. “I’ve played that group, Caroline and that group, for a while and they’re big, they’re tough and they go. We could have been better. We worked on boxing out and rebounding – we’re actually a decent rebounding team for our size. We don’t leak out, we go in, but we needed to be a little more physical tonight.”