Fresno State this season has scored 38.7 percent of its points from the 3-point line, which is the highest in the Mountain West and a dangerous way to go about its business.
Teams that have relied that heavily on the three ball have finished in the bottom three in the conference standings more than twice as often as they have finished in the top three. Only twice has a team won the regular-season title when leading in percentage of points from the 3-point line and neither of those teams made it to the finals of the conference tournament. A 12-2 Air Force team was bounced in the first round in 2004 after going just 4 of 14 from three (28.6 percent) and a 14-2 New Mexico team, which was No. 8 in the nation, lost in the semifinals in 2010 after making 7 of 21 shots from three (33.3).
The Falcons also were the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 at the Mountain West Tournament.
The Bulldogs had been bucking that trend in getting to 14-4 and 5-1 in conference play, but it bucked back Saturday in a 74-65 loss at Colorado State.
“We just missed a lot of open shots,” said senior guard Deshon Taylor, one of two Bulldogs who shot well against the Rams, going 7 of 15 and 5 of 9 from three. “We were 8 of 30 from three. We don’t usually shoot it like that.”
No, they don’t. But Sam Bittner, who had hit 52.2 percent of his threes, was 0 of 4 Saturday. New Williams, who was at 35.4 percent, was 0 of 3. Braxton Huggins, knocking down 40.4 percent of his threes, was just 1 of 8.
And that 8 of 30 for the Bulldogs, a season-low 26.7 percent, came against a team that is last in the conference defending the 3-point line.
Colorado State opponents have hit 37.2 percent of their threes – eight times the Rams have allowed an opponent to hit 40 percent or better and that includes Nevada with a 48.1, and the Wolf Pack is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams anywhere.
It’s a tenuous line for the Bulldogs and will continue to be while they are without point guard Noah Blackwell, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury.
Fresno State in its loss at Colorado State missed its first seven shots in the second half with six of them, all in a row, coming from the 3-point line.
The Rams turned that into a 13-0 run and led by as many as 18.
Could Blackwell have turned that around?
Maybe, maybe not.
But the Bulldogs would have had another facilitator and scorer on the floor. Before his injury, Blackwell had averaged 12.1 points and 5.7 assists over nine games while hitting 41.7 percent of his shots from the 3-point line.
And in the past two games with Blackwell off the floor, a win over San Diego State and a loss at Colorado State, the Bulldogs’ offensive efficiency rating at kenpom.com has been going in the wrong direction. It was 99.0 or higher in eight of nine and 11 of 13 games, then 98.1 against the Aztecs and 89.2 against the Rams.
Still on the road
The Bulldogs’ poor shooting in the loss at Colorado State might spur corrective action. They might all be looking to get in some extra work, to get some shots up.
At home, that’s not a problem.
The Bulldogs, though, are not at home and won’t be for a while.
With a game on Wednesday at Wyoming, the Bulldogs stayed out on the road rather than fly home and fly back through Denver again two days later. It is a cheaper alternative but doesn’t help much bouncing back from a loss in a game they had a season-worst from the 3-point line.
The Bulldogs are staying in Fort Collins, Colo., until Tuesday, then taking a bus up to Laramie, Wyo.
They get a charter home after playing Wyoming, at least.
Huggins shot the ball well on the road before going 5 of 18 and 1 of 8 at the 3-point line in scoring 12 points the loss at Colorado State.
In three road games at TCU, at Utah State and at Boise State and three neutral site games at the Wooden Legacy, he was 40 of 83 shots (48.2 percent) including 23 of 45 at the 3-point line (51.1)
Huggins did not play in the Bulldogs’ win at San Jose State, due to the flu.
- The Cowboys got blown out at Boise State 77-52 on Saturday and are now 1-6 in conference play, the single win coming from 0-7 San Jose State.
Wyoming gets most of its offense from Justin James, who is averaging 16.7 shots and 20.5 points per game. Against the Broncos, he was 2 of 17 and 1 of 9 from the 3-point line, scoring just seven points.
That was only part of the problem, though.
Freshman Trace Young, who initially gave the Cowboys a boost when coming out of a redshirt in November, did not get a single shot up in 29 minutes. Young, averaging 8.0 points per game, had one rebound, one assist and four turnovers.
- With a game-high 24 points, Taylor moved into the Top 20 on the all-time Fresno State scoring list. Taylor has 1,229 career points, just ahead of Demetrius Porter (1,227 points, 1998-2001) to No. 21 and behind Chris Herren (1,297, 1996-’99) at No. 19.
- Fresno State got no points from Bittner (0 of 6) and Williams (0 of 4) and is one of three Mountain West teams to get no scoring from two starters in a conference game.
San Jose State has had it happen twice and New Mexico has had it happen it in back-to-back games, a loss at UNLV on Tuesday and a loss to Utah State on Saturday.