Down at halftime at Utah State, at Boise State and against San Diego State, the Fresno State Bulldogs always found ways to counter. They worked their way back into basketball games, into leads and on to wins, the fixes coming mostly at the offensive end.
But at Colorado State on Saturday and against a team that had lost two in a row and four of six in Mountain West Conference play, the Bulldogs struggled without injured point guard Noah Blackwell on the floor and didn’t have nearly enough in a 74-65 loss to the Rams at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.
They never got much going in transition, outscored 20-4.
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And while tugged along by Deshon Taylor and Nate Grimes, they were impacted in the half-court without Blackwell, who was injured in the Bulldogs’ win at Boise State.
“It definitely (had an impact),” coach Justin Hutson said. “We had to play D.T. 40 (minutes), and we didn’t get a lot of production anywhere else. That part definitely hurts, because he’s one of the guys that comes off pick and rolls and helps guys get shots.
“That part was tough, but hats off to them. They came out at the start of the game and at the start of the second half and took it to us and took too big of a lead for us to overcome.”
The Rams (8-12, 3-4 in the MW) put together a 13-0 run out of halftime and led by as many as 18 points twice, but they also gave the Bulldogs plenty of opportunity in missing 12 of 24 foul shots in the second half.
But Fresno State (14-5, 5-2), aside from Taylor and Grimes, was about the same in the second half as it was in the first. That is, not very good.
The Bulldogs were 11 of 31 and 3 of 12 from three in the first half, 35.5 and 25.0 percent.
They were 12 of 33 and 5 of 18 from three in the second, 36.4 and 27.8 percent.
Taylor, the Bulldogs’ all-conference guard, scored nine of his game-high 24 points in the final seven minutes and also had seven assists and six rebounds in the game. Grimes had his fifth double-double in seven conference games with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
But while Taylor and Grimes were a combined 13 of 26 from the floor, the other six players to hit the floor for Fresno State were just 10 of 38 with starters Braxton Huggins going 5 of 18 including 1 of 8 from three, Sam Bittner missing all six of his shots in a scoreless 33 minutes and New Williams missing all four of his shots in a scoreless 27 minutes.
“We just missed a lot of open shots,” Taylor said. “We were 8 of 30 from three. We don’t usually shoot it like that. We had 12 turnovers – we try to limit ourselves to nine. That didn’t help.”
Still, the Bulldogs came out of a timeout with 1:46 to go down just five at 65-60 and a make away from a one-possession game.
But Colorado State was not going to let Taylor get that next shot, not as limited as the Bulldogs were to that point.
“We were either getting Braxton coming off a stagger or D.T. with an iso and they jumped it,” Hutson said. “They ended up switching it and we kind of lost the ball a little bit. We had New coming off a stagger to see if he could get a good look otherwise it was going back to Deshon for a high pick and roll. New got a good look and it just didn’t fall.”
The Rams secured the rebound, and Hyron Edwards hit a pair of free throws. The foul shots by Edwards were the first of seven in a row Colorado State knocked down through the final 1:31, getting them to 18 of 32 (56.3 percent) in the game.
Down seven, the Bulldogs ended up with another look at a 3-pointer. Huggins missed, and the Bulldogs missed a chance for the program’s first 4-0 conference road start.
“It happens,” Hutson said. “Those things happen. We didn’t get a lot of production, but we still had a chance. We had a chance to make it a one-possession game.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada