Fresno State Basketball

Fresno State took efficiency out of Boise State offense. Can Bulldogs do it again?

Coach Hutson sets up Fresno State vs. Boise State

Fresno State coach Justin Hutson sets up a Mountain West Conference matchup against the Boise State Broncos Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. The Bulldogs' defense scuttled the Broncos in the first game, a 63-53 victory in Boise.
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Fresno State coach Justin Hutson sets up a Mountain West Conference matchup against the Boise State Broncos Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. The Bulldogs' defense scuttled the Broncos in the first game, a 63-53 victory in Boise.

Fresno State moved back into a tie for second place in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball race with Utah State on Saturday with a win at UNLV and an Aggies loss at San Diego State. The Bulldogs have a chance to go into a Feb. 23 game at No. 7 Nevada on a four-game winning streak with games against Boise State at New Mexico and against Air Force up next.

They beat the Broncos by 10 in Boise, the Lobos by 12 at the Save Mart Center and have just the one game this season against the Falcons, who are 10-13 and 5-6 in conference.

When Fresno State won at Boise State 63-53 on Jan. 19, it held the Broncos to their fewest points in conference. They were averaging 78.8 points in MW play and since have averaged 76.2 including a 105-57 wipeout of San Jose State in their last outing.

The Broncos also had a offensive efficiency rating of 83.8, their lowest in a Mountain West game since they were at 82.8 in a loss at San Jose State in 2016.

The basics

Fresno State: 17-6 and 8-3; tied for second in MW

  • Coach: Justin Hutson, 17-6 in first season

Boise State: 11-13 and 6-5; tied for fifth

  • Coach: Leon Rice, 176-109 in ninth season

Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Save Mart Center

Series: The Broncos lead 22-20, but are 7-13 in Fresno

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/940AM ESPN, 1600AM ESPN Deportes

The Broncos

Boise State is leading the Mountain West in field goal percentage and has hit 58.0 percent of its shots over its past two games, a loss to UNLV and the win over the Spartans.

Both of those games were at Taco Bell Arena.

Boise State guard Justinian Jessup hits a 3-pointer guarded by San Jose State’s Craig Lecesne in the second half of the Broncos 105-57 victory Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. The Broncos hit 15 3-pointers in the win. Darin Oswald

On the road in conference the Broncos have hit a solid 46.4 percent, but have only played at Nevada among the top MW teams. Their other road games came at Wyoming (sixth in conference in field goal percentage defense) and at San Jose State, at Air Force and at Colorado State, all in the bottom half of the league.

Got that fixed …

The Bulldogs have had issues the past three games at the Save Mart Center with shot clock malfunctions including one delay that lasted more than five minutes.

That likely has been solved.

Fresno State invested in a new Daktronics scoreboard console, which arrived last week and will be in operation for the game against Boise State.

Fresno State guard Braxton Huggins, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, in action against New Mexico. Huggins was held to just six points in a 62-53 victory at Boise State on Jan. 19, 2019. The senior from Bakersfield put up 31 in the Bulldogs’ last outing, a victory at UNLV, and is one of two players in the Mountain West to score 30 or more twice in conference play. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Huggins, Part II

The Broncos have limited some of the top scorers in the Mountain West, keeping them well under their season scoring averages.

That includes Fresno State guard Braxton Huggins, who is fourth in the MW in averaging 18.7 points in conference play. In the Bulldogs’ win at Taco Bell Arena, Huggins was just 2 of 7 including 2 of 6 from the 3-point line in scoring just six points.

The second time around, though, adjustments were made.

Michael Steadman (San Jose State) went from six points to 16 and Caleb Martin (Nevada) went from 10 points to 30 the second time around. (Boise State did hold Wyoming’s Justin James to seven and seven points in two matchups.)

Expect the Bulldogs to try to get Huggins more shots, coming off an 83-65 victory at UNLV in which he hit 10 of 16 in scoring 31 points. Huggins is averaging 14.3 shots per game.

As the senior from Bakersfield said after the win at UNLV, “I got a lot of good looks, and I love to score the ball.”

Big scorers

Nine players have scored 30 or more points in a Mountain West game this season, but Boise State guard Derrick Alston and the Bulldogs’ Huggins are the only two to have done it more than once.

The top scoring games in MW play …

40 – Jordan Caroline (Nevada) at Colorado State

36 – Justin James (Wyoming) vs. Colorado State

35 – Sam Merrill (Utah State) at San Diego State

34 – Lavelle Scottie (Air Force) vs. Wyoming

33 – Braxton Huggins (Fresno State) at Utah State

33 – Derrick Alston (Boise State) vs. San Jose State

31 – Joel Ntambwe (UNLV) vs. Wyoming

31 – Huggins at UNLV

30 – Alston vs. San Diego State

30 – Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State) vs. UNLV

30 – Caleb Martin (Nevada) vs. Boise State

When the Bulldogs won at Boise State, Alston scored just four points going 0 of 6, 0 of 3 at the 3-point line and 4 of 4 at the foul line.

Fresno State TCU Basketball
Fresno State guard New Williams (0), seen in action against TCU, scored 14 points off the bench in the Bulldogs’ 62-53 victory at Boise State. Fresno State gets the Broncos at the Save Mart Center Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Richard W. Rodriguez ASSOCIATED PRESS

Layup line

The Broncos’ Justinian Jessup is third in the Mountain West in 3-point field goal percentage and has knocked down 202 in his career, this season becoming the fastest in school history to get to 200. Jessup got to 200 in his 87th career game.

The Bulldogs were able to fore turnovers without fouling in the game at Boise State.

The Broncos have 115 turnovers in MW play (10.5 per game), fewest in the conference, but had 16 in the loss to Fresno State and only got to the line eight times.

Boise State coach Leon Rice after that game: “They’re ballers and they’re good. Our offense put way too much pressure on our defense and it kind of took the wind out of our defensive sails a little bit because we didn’t score. We got some good looks and we went 4 of 21 from three and we never got to the free throw line. They pressured us all game. They had a total of 13 fouls and they got three of them in the last two minutes.”

Fresno State with a win over Boise State will clinch a .500 or better record in conference play for a sixth year in a row, something only two other teams have a chance to do.

The other two are the Broncos and San Diego State, 6-5 and 6-4 in MW play starting the week.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada