Fresno State has No. 6-ranked Nevada on Saturday, but can’t get caught looking past Air Force. Get this one and the Bulldogs could be in solid shape for securing the No. 2 seed next month at the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament.
The Bulldogs and Utah State are tied for second place at 10-3 and both play Nevada and fourth-place San Diego State in the final four games of the regular season.
The Aggies have them at home while the Bulldogs have to go on the road for those two games. But Utah State also has games at 6-7 Boise State and at 4-8 Colorado State, while the Bulldogs get 2-10 Wyoming and 0-12 San Jose State at the Save Mart Center.
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Fresno State: 19-6 and 10-3; tied for second in MW
- Coach: Justin Hutson, 19-6 in first season
Air Force: 10-15 and 5-8; tied for seventh
- Coach: Dave Pilipovich, 94-128 in eighth season
Series: Fresno State leads 19-6
Tipoff: 7 p.m., Save Mart Center
TV/Radio: AT&T Sports Net/940AM ESPN, 1600AM ESPN Deportes
G Deshon Taylor 16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.5 apg
G Braxton Huggins 19.0, 4.5, 1.6
G Noah Blackwell 8.6, 2.4, 3.9
F Sam Bittner 7.0, 4.8, 2.2
F Nate Grimes 12.0, 9.3, 0.8
G A.J. Walker 9.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.0 apg
G Chris Joyce 7.2, 3.0, 1.6
G Caleb Morris 5.9, 3.1, 1.3
F Lavelle Scottie 15.5, 5.2, 1.3
F Ryan Swan 12.2, 7.2, 1.8
Air Force comes in having lost two games in a row and four of five, but with its Princeton-style offense can give the Bulldogs some problems.
“It’s like going to the dentist, to tell you the truth,” coach Justin Hutson said. “You have to play some zone, when you’re in man you have to switch some things that you don’t want to switch, you have to really communicate and do a great job at it.
“They’re always close until maybe the last six to eight minutes. They’ve had some big wins and they’ve had some tough losses and I don’t expect anything different from the Academy. They always come in and play great.”
The Falcons are led by forward Lavelle Scottie, who is averaging 15.5 points per game and has put up 34, 25 and 25 points over the past three, hitting 67.3 percent of his shots in a victory over Wyoming and losses at UNLV and to Utah State.
Ryan Swan and A.J. Walker are averaging 12.3 and 11.2 points per game in conference play, but the Falcons are not as efficient as they have been over the past few seasons scoring at less than 1.000 points per possession in five of their past seven games.
Not at home on the road
The Falcons are 1-8 in road games, 1-5 in conference road games and it’s an easy guess where they got that one win … at San Jose State, which is 3-21, 0-12 and has lost in Mountain West play by an average of 23.4 points.
Air Force had to go to double overtime to get that win, though.
It has struggled to score away from Clune Arena, where it is 4-3 in MW play and averaging 70.9 points per game.
The Falcons on the MW road …
- PPG: 62.3
- FG-FGA, Pct.: 148 of 359, 41.2
- 3FG-FGA, Pct.: 43 of 146, 29.5
- FT-FTA, Pct. 35 of 53, 66.0
- APG: 13.3
- TOPG: 13.0
Air Force does not make many threes – it had 11 in the win at San Jose State, but took 47 shots to get there, hitting just 23.4 percent. It also does not get to the foul line much, averaging only 8.8 free throws per game.
Fresno State is sitting on a 20th win and if it comes on Wednesday against Air Force it would be the fastest the Bulldogs have hit 20 since 2003. The past six 20-win seasons they have hit that marker at 20-8, 20-11, 20-9, 20-16 and 20-8.
A victory also would clinch a first-round bye at the Mountain West Tournament – the Bulldogs and Boise State are the only teams in the conference to secure a bye in each of the past four seasons.
- The Bulldogs have had some issues the past few years defending Air Force. When Hutson was an assistant at San Diego State and running the Aztecs defense, they went into those matchups well-schooled on all of the Falcons’ actions. In those four games, Air Force hit 39.6 percent of its shots in scoring 56 points, 32.8 percent in scoring 50, 38.5 percent in scoring 60 and 25.0 percent in scoring 38.
- The Falcons have not won at Fresno State since 1995, losing nine in a row.
- The 84 points the Falcons’ Scottie has put up over the past three games are the most by an Air Force player in a similar stretch since Jarmica Reese scored 86 in 1998.
The Bulldogs go into the game leading the Mountain West in 3-point field goal percentage (37.9), 3-point field goals per game (10.0) and 3-pointers made (239) and are one of 16 teams in the nation averaging at least 10.0 threes per game. Air Force opponents have put up 338 threes, second most in the conference, and the Falcons are fourth allowing opponents to hit 33.7 percent.