It’s not a code, but try to figure it out …
2-11, 1-4, 4-4, 9
1-10, 1-3, 1-4, 4
Those numbers added up to trouble for Fresno State – the final games in 2014 and 2015 from the field, beyond the three-point line and at the free-throw line along with the total points for Marvelle Harris, coming at the end of long seasons in which he ranked seventh and first in the Mountain West Conference in minutes and his production tapered off as the Bulldogs got into March.
A 41.6 percent shooter in 2014, he hit 38.5 percent in the final month. A 43.3 percent shooter in 2015, he hit just 27.6 percent in those final three games.
But with the Bulldogs set to open play in the Mountain West Tournament on Thursday in a quarterfinal against UNLV, that is less of a concern even with their star guard logging 36.7 minutes per game this season, second most in the conference, including 40.3 over a stretch in which they have won 8 of 9 games including a double-overtime victory over the Runnin’ Rebels and an overtime loss at Nevada.
Since the start of the season, coach Rodney Terry and Harris have taken steps to cut down on wear and tear that might impact him late in the season.
“I feel 10 times better this year than I did last year,” Harris said. “I feel like last year at this time I was sore, had no lift. Now I’m ready to play.”
The adjustments started on the practice floor, taking fewer reps.
“I think you have to be smart about it,” Terry said. “He’s going to get in what he needs to get in, but we don’t run him into the ground in practice, which is a big help, so he’s able to play at a high level come game time.
“He has been around long enough and been through it enough that he knows what we have to get done. He could have one rep in practice and he’s fine.”
The Bulldogs also have tried to get Harris off the floor just before media timeouts in games, which can be a tricky proposition.
But, to a large degree, it comes down to Harris, who Tuesday was honored as the conference Player of the Year in a season he ranked third in scoring and first in assists, assists-to-turnover ratio and steals in MW games.
“Being older, knowing this is the last go-round, I can’t have games at the end where my body kind of broke down,” he said. “Just knowing how to take care of my body, getting a lot of treatment, and in practice getting some hard reps and then more observing everything, trying to rest more in practice and not trying to kill myself in practice like I did before. It’s just doing little things.
“The years before, I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was thinking it’s practice, I need to practice hard, I need to be in every rep. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do treatment, I don’t feel like going,’ and now it’s ‘No, I have to go get in an ice bath.’ It’s going to help me. Sometimes you have to take reps off in practice. You can’t try to do every rep in practice, especially at critical times like this, and I think coach has pulled back. We do more 5 on 0 stuff and things like that and I think that is helping a lot and not just me but other guys.”
March this time around is off to a much more promising start. Harris in two games has averaged 28.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals, which he is hoping to take into the conference tournament.
“I think he still has a lot of pop right now,” Terry said. “He’s playing with a lot of bounce right now, a lot of lift. I think he’s in a good place right now.”
That can only help against the Rebels. The Bulldogs were fully extended in beating them 69-66 to open conference play on Dec. 30 at the Thomas & Mack Center and 111-104 in double overtime on Feb. 6 at the Save Mart Center.
“They’re a very talented team, a team that on any given night can score with the best of the teams in our league … great athleticism, lot of good talent on that team,” Terry said of UNLV, which advanced with a 108-102 victory over Air Force in triple overtime.
In the two wins over the Rebels, Harris played pivotal roles. He scored 22 points in the victory at UNLV and had 37 in the overtime victory, kicking off this run in which Fresno State won 8 of 9. Harris has scored 20 or more points in all nine.
“They put a lot of pressure on you in transition,” Terry said, “and they put a lot of pressure on you defensively because they can score the ball.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT: NO. 2 FRESNO STATE VS. NO. 7 UNLV
- Thursday: 6 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas
- Records: Bulldogs 22-9, Rebels 18-14
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940)