Fresno State Basketball

Fresno State game day: Bulldogs best in MW defending the three, and need to be at UNLV

Fresno State guard Deshon Taylor, center, scored a game-high 24 points, but down starting point guard Noah Blackwell the Bulldogs struggled at the offensive end in a 74-65 loss at Colorado State. Aside from Taylor and Nate Grimes, the Bulldogs were a combined 10 of 38, 26.3 percent.
Fresno State guard Deshon Taylor, center, scored a game-high 24 points, but down starting point guard Noah Blackwell the Bulldogs struggled at the offensive end in a 74-65 loss at Colorado State. Aside from Taylor and Nate Grimes, the Bulldogs were a combined 10 of 38, 26.3 percent. Fresno Bee file

The Fresno State men’s basketball team’s 82-81 loss to Utah State on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center dropped the Bulldogs into a solo third place in the Mountain West, and with an eye toward seeding at the conference tournament next month they do not want to drop to fourth or fifth and end up on the same side of the bracket as the No. 1 seed.

UNLV ratcheted up the stakes with its win at Boise State, moving into solo fourth, and could tie the Bulldogs in third with a victory.

The basics

Fresno State: 16-6 and 7-3, third in MW

UNLV: 12-10 and 6-4, fourth

  • Coach: Marvin Menzies, 43-44 in third season; 241-155 overall

Tipoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Thomas & Mack Center

TV/Radio: ESPN3/940AM ESPN

The Rebels

UNLV snapped a three-game losing streak with an 83-72 victory at Boise State, winning as a road underdog and breaking a four-game losing streak to the Broncos and a five-game losing streak at Taco Bell Arena.

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UNLV guard Noah Robotham pulls up for a 3-pointer defended by Boise State’s RJ Williams in the second half of the Rebels’ 83-72 victory over the Broncos Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

The Rebels are led by guards Kris Clyburn and Amauri Hardy, who are averaging 13.7 and 12.8 points per game.

Noah Robotham was 5 of his last 21 and 3 of his last 13 at the 3-point line going into the game at Boise State, but led the Rebels with 21 points. He hit 6 of his 8 shots including a season-high five 3-pointers.

Defending the 3

The Bulldogs are leading the Mountain West in 3-point field goal defense in conference play and overall, allowing opponents to hit 29.6 and 29.7 percent. But that defense had some holes in it in an 82-81 loss to Utah State (the Aggies hit 12 of 26 3-pointers, 46.2 percent) and the Rebels are on a bit of a roll there.

UNLV knocked down 14 of 26 shots from the 3-point line in its win at Boise State and has made 13 or more 3s in five of its past seven games, scoring 46.8 percent of its points on 3s.

That’s a big number.

The Bulldogs this season are leading the Mountain West in getting 38.2 percent of its points from the 3-point line while New Hampshire is leading the nation in getting 45.8 percent of its points there.

Home game

Fresno State has two players from Las Vegas on its roster in senior Sam Bittner and junior Nate Grimes. How have they fared against the hometown team?

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Fresno State forward Sam Bittner hit 5 of 9 shots and scored 13 points in the Bulldogs loss at Utah State, more points than he had in the three previous games combined. The Bulldogs play at UNLV Saturday Feb, 9, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Bittner has started and played one game against the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack, scoring six points with two rebounds and two steals in a 77-64 win last season. Grimes also has played in that one game, scoring three points with two rebounds and two steals.

“I grew up in Las Vegas and a Rebels fan,” Bittner said. “Obviously, now I’m a Bulldogs fan, but it is always nice to go back to Vegas and showcase my skills and showcase how much I have developed as a player and a young man to all of my family and my friends who are back there.

“It’s a special game for me, but it is just another game. We’re going to have to go out there and compete, play hard and keep getting better.”

For starters

The Bulldogs have been getting off to slow starts the past five games at both ends of the floor but might be in a good spot against the Rebels, at least at the offensive end.

UNLV has not defended much in the first half of its past four games:

at Boise State: 16 of 26, 7 of 13, 43 points

at Utah State: 18 of 33, 7 of 13, 48 points

Nevada: 15 of 31, 5 of 13, 48 points

at San Diego State: 15 of 333, 3 of 7, 46 points

The Rebels have allowed an average of 46.3 points in the first half of those games and opponents have hit 52.0 percent of their shots and 47.8 percent on 3-pointers.

Fresno State over its past five games has averaged just 32.3 points in the first half, hitting only 39.3 percent of its shots and 25.4 percent from the 3-point line.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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