Fresno State men’s basketball coach Justin Hutson was very concerned about Wednesday’s matchup against Air Force, simply because not many of the Bulldogs had defended against an offense like the Falcons’. Deshon Taylor, Sam Bittner, that was about it.
Turns out, the trouble was at the other end of the floor and the Bulldogs shot their way into a hole that proved too deep.
Fresno State went down 64-61 at the Save Mart Center, hitting just 35.1 percent of its shots in losing to a team that had lost four of its past five games and was tied for seventh in the Mountain West Conference.
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“I thought the defensive energy was really good,” Hutson said. “I thought we did a great job of guarding their Princeton offense early and our energy was way too high on the offensive end.
“We needed to slow down, made silly mistakes, we took bad shots, we didn’t make the extra pass, we dribbled into gaps and had 11 turnovers in the first half after we just had six in New Mexico at The Pit for the whole game.”
The 35.1 percent is the Bulldogs’ worst in conference play, and it also is misleading.
Fresno State (19-7, 10-4 in the MW) was much worse.
Before a flurry in the final four minutes got them to within one point of the Falcons on two occasions, the Bulldogs were 13 of 46, 28.3 percent.
Fresno State is leading the Mountain West in 3-point field goal percentage, but that was not the answer. Still, the Bulldogs were intent to fire away. Of their first 20 shots, 15 came from the 3-point line, and not nearly enough went down.
With the three not falling, Fresno State struggled through a stretch of more than nine minutes without scoring, missing nine shots in a row with five turnovers sprinkled in there.
It was that way more or less for 36 minutes. With 4:11 to go, the Bulldogs still were down by 17 points before New Williams and Sam Bittner hit back-to-back threes to start a run.
The Bulldogs’ last shot to tie the score came after A.J. Walker knocked down a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining – the Falcons were only 8 of 19 at the line, but hit their last five. Braxton Huggins got a shot at tying it but his shot hit the front rim.
Check back Thursday for reaction and analysis of the Bulldogs’ loss to Air Force and a look ahead to Saturday’s game at Nevada.