To Julien Lewis, the Fresno State senior guard, the Bulldogs men’s basketball team gave away a chance to beat New Mexico last time out, which was the case at the start and for too long a portion of that game.
The Bulldogs got off to a slow start, and 12 minutes in trailed by double digits, then were down by as many as 24 in the second half, and they never were closer than 10 – which makes a Mountain West matchup Wednesday against Nevada and a chance to rebound more about the Bulldogs than anything else.
Fresno State is seeking a fourth consecutive victory against Nevada.
“When we started that game, we weren’t engaged like we’re supposed to be,” said Lewis, who came off the bench to hit 6 of 8 shots, score 12 points with three steals and three rebounds in just 20 minutes. “We did what we are supposed to do on offense, but on defense …
“It wasn’t a secret. You could see it out there on the court. We weren’t getting back on defense like we were supposed to. We weren’t engaged.”
Fresno State, coach Rodney Terry reminded, is 10-5, 1-1 in the conference and off to its best start since the 2006-07 season. He resisted calling the loss to New Mexico a disappointment coming off a victory at UNLV to open MW play, a conference that is very even at the top and through the middle where no team ever figures to be safe or escape at the end unmarked by a loss.
But Terry also made sure the Bulldogs knew more is expected, particularly for a team that starts two seniors in Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero and two juniors that have played a lot of basketball in the Mountain West in Paul Watson and Karachi Edo, along with Torren Jones, who started his career at Missouri and came to Fresno State through Midland College.
“He got on us on Sunday, and that’s what he does,” Lewis said of Terry. “We needed that to wake us up.”
And Terry is confident the Bulldogs will respond accordingly against the Wolf Pack. Nevada comes in 9-5 and 1-1 in conference play with a loss at New Mexico and a win against Wyoming, an interesting mix ranking second in the MW in field-goal percentage defense but eighth in points allowed and a tough matchup in senior guard Marqueze Coleman.
First-year Nevada coach Eric Musselman is a former NBA head coach with the Golden State Warriors (2002-04) and Sacramento Kings (2006-07).
Nevada has won three of the past four meetings in the series at Save Mart Center.
“You have to play with urgency at this time of year, obviously,” Terry said. “We talked about that, and at the end of the day our guys have to do it on the floor, and I think they will. They understand what’s at stake, and every night you have to compete at a high level. That’s what you have to do.
“I thought we got pretty good meaningful stops at UNLV. We dug in. I thought that our older players played with good urgency down the stretch. But you have to do that every night. You can’t just do that on one night. We’ve been in this league four years now. Marvelle has been in it four years now. He knows how hard you have to play in this league. We say it all the time – there are no nights off in this league with anybody we play; I don’t care if you’re at home, if you’re on the road. We have five guys that have competed in this league for X amount of years. They know you have to come to play.”
Et cetera – Harris is just two points shy of tying Carl Ray Harris in fourth place on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list. Carl Ray Harris scored 1,584 points.
▪ At 9-5, Nevada has already won as many games as it did all of last season. The Wolf Pack was 9-22 and finished ninth in the Mountain West at 5-13.
▪ Coleman is averaging 24.5 points in the first two conference games. He had 26 in the loss at New Mexico and 23 in the victory over Wyoming and is second in the league behind Boise State’s James Webb at 28.0. The Bulldogs’ Harris is tied for eighth with the Lobos’ Cullen Neal at 18.5 points per game.
▪ The Bulldogs got the ball into the paint when seeing a lot of zone from New Mexico but had difficulty finishing there and obviously didn’t make shots from the perimeter. They were 1 of 18 at the three-point line. “We did some things the last couple of days that I think will help our big guys at least be better at competing at finishing around the basket,” Terry said. “We went live where they had to score against wall-ups, and it helped our defense, too, in terms of walling guys up in the post. We’ve done that in the past, and it has always helped our guys like Kevin Foster and Jerry Brown. It has always helped our guys get better so it’s something we’re going back to, and it will help our post guys get better the more we do it.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. NEVADA
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 10-5, 1-1 Mountain West; Wolf Pack 9-5, 1-1
- Online TV: Mountain West Network
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Nevada leads 51-41
- Last meeting: Fresno State 66, Nevada 62 on Jan. 24, 2015, at Save Mart Center