Fresno State is coming off a momentum-crushing loss to Air Force and there is one snapshot that will cut right to the heart of that loss and a men’s basketball matchup Saturday against No. 6 (for now) Nevada at the Lawlor Events Center.
▪ Layups Wednesday vs. Air Force: 6 of 17
▪ Layups Jan. 12 vs. Nevada: 7 of 20
Air Force is nowhere near as long, athletic or physical as Nevada. The Bulldogs obviously needed to bring more against the Falcons and they obviously will need to bring more this time around against the Wolf Pack, which is leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring defense (65.9 ppg) and second in field goal percentage defense (40.1) and 3-point defense (31.4).
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Fresno State lost by only 10 to Nevada last month at the Save Mart Center (74-64), but was in it in part because the Wolf Pack jacked up 37 shots from the 3-point line.
Nevada made only 10 of those shots 27.0 percent, but pulled 17 offensive rebounds, scored 27 second-chance points and hit 53.6 percent of its 2-point shots.
The Wolf Pack hasn’t come close to 37 threes since – they have averaged 24.3.
They don’t figure to in the rematch, either.
Fresno State: 19-7 and 10-4; third in MW
▪ Coach: Justin Hutson, 19-7 in first season
Nevada: 24-2 and 11-2; first in MW
▪ Coach: Eric Musselman, 105-31 in fourth season
Series: Nevada leads 56-44
Tipoff: 5 p.m., Lawlor Events Center, Reno
TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/940AM ESPN
G Deshon Taylor 16.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.5 apg
G Braxton Huggins 19.0, 4.5, 1.6
G Noah Blackwell 8.3, 2.4, 3.8
F Sam Bittner 7.0, 4.7, 2.2
F Nate Grimes 11.8, 9.3, 0.8
G/F Caleb Martin 19.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg
G/F Cody Martin 10.9, 4.3, 5.2
G/F Jordan Caroline 18.4, 9.7, 2.1
F Tre’Shawn Thurman 7.0, 5.4, 1.7
F Trey Porter 7.8, 4.9, 0.4
The Wolf Pack
Nevada is coming off a 65-57 loss at San Diego State, hitting only 33.9 percent of its shots and putting up a season-low point total.
That snapped a 10-game winning streak in conference play in which the Wolf Pack had averaged 85.6 points and won by 22.0 points a game.
The Wolf Pack presents difficult matchups for Fresno State one through five, the toughest likely Jordan Caroline at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds. Caroline had 19 points, 16 rebounds including seven at the offensive end, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot in Nevada’s win at the Save Mart Center.
The Wolf Pack has won its six MW home games by an average of 27.7 points while allowing an average of only 58.2 points.
Faster start, better finish?
Senior guard Deshon Taylor was the driver down the stretch in the Bulldogs’ loss to Air Force when Fresno State rallied from 17 down with 4:11 left to twice get within one point.
Taylor scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the final 2:06, making four of the Bulldogs’ final five shots and getting an assist on the one he didn’t score. He had the basketball in his hands and played downhill – he also got to the foul line off drives to the basket, going 4 of 4.
Will that lead to some adjustment and a push to get Taylor started faster with the Bulldogs coming down the stretch of the conference season?
Taylor in the first half in MW games …
▪ Points: 6.6
▪ FG-FGA, Pct.: 29 of 76, 38.1
▪ 3FG-FGA, Pct: 17 of 44, 38.6
▪ FT-FTA, Pct: 18 of 21, 85.7
▪ Assists: 24, 1.7
Taylor in the second half …
▪ Points: 9.5
▪ FG-FGA, Pct.: 39 of 86, 45.3
▪ 3FG-FGA, Pct.: 17 of 39, 43.6
▪ FT-FTA, Pct.: 38 of 53, 71.7
▪ Assists: 34, 2.4
There are fewer threes in the second half, but the trade-off is more drives when Taylor can score, pass to an open shooter or get fouled.
▪ Caroline was 3 of 12 and 0 of 5 from the 3-point line in scoring eight points in Nevada’s Wednesday loss at San Diego State, snapping a streak of 38 consecutive games he had scored in double-digits. The last time he had failed to put up 10 or more points was at Colorado State last season when 1 of 10 and 1 of 8 in scoring four points.
The Bulldogs’ player with the longest streak scoring 10 or more points?
Braxton Huggins and Taylor, each at six games.
▪ San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher on defending Nevada in the Aztecs’ victory: “I just thought we had a body in front of a body because they get downhill so well. I don’t think they got to the rim a whole lot.
“They were shooting a lot of shots that were in front of us and I don’t think they got a lot of layups, either, which is what they’re good at. I think we gave enough help and built a wall where we hoped they’d miss their threes.”
▪ Fresno State could use some first-half offense from Sam Bittner. The senior forward has made just one shot in the first half in victories over Boise State and at New Mexico and the loss to Air Force. He is 1 of 6, scoring three points and did not attempt a shot in the first half against Air Force while playing 14 minutes.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada