Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian
The Fresno State Bulldogs beat Louisiana Tech 70-58 Monday â€” a Jekyll and Hyde performance that made Fresno State look like the best and the worst team in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Louisiana Tech remains winless in WAC play after Monday night’s loss.
In the first half, Fresno State looked like the team to beat in the WAC.
The Fresno State defense took control over the game, allowing only three Louisiana Tech players to score.
Louisiana Tech couldnâ€™t get it into the bucket in the first half. If it was missing a break away lay-up, it was other players taking contested lay-ups in a lane full of collapsing Fresno State defenders.
Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian
Tight defense caused Louisiana Tech to shoot only 25 percent from the field in the first half.
â€œDefensively we were really good,â€ Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. â€œWe made them shoot over us and through us, we didnâ€™t allow much penetration.â€
Fresno State also received solid defensive play from senior Dwight Oâ€™Neil, who saw his first action since getting injured Nov. 17 against CSU Bakersfield in non-conference play.
He immediately became involved, snatching two steals on two consecutive exchanges. Oâ€™Neil saw 19 minutes of action.
Cleveland said it was huge for Oâ€™Neil to step up and hit free throws seeing as he was wearing a cast that started on his forearm and went to his palm.
â€œHeâ€™s been practicing for two or three days, but heâ€™s never actually worn that piece; it was quite an adjustment,â€ Cleveland said. â€œMaking those two free throws, I was proud of him. He just canâ€™t dribble right now.â€
Oâ€™Neil never really needed to contribute offensively, because Louisiana Tech had nothing but trouble containing senior Kevin Bell who finished with 18 points, shooting 7 of 10 from the field.
If Bell was too strong for a quick defender, he was too quick for a bigger defender. If Louisiana Tech collapsed on Bell, it usually led to one of his six assists to players like Eddie Miller, who finished with 17 points.
The Fresno State offense shot 48 percent from the field, and 45 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.
â€œThe first twenty minutes we completely controlled the game,â€ Cleveland said.
The Bulldogs came into the second half confident with a 21-point lead.
Fresno State eventually stretched the lead out to as many as 27 points, with about 14 minutes left in regulation.
With 11:39 to go something changed in the Louisiana Tech team.
When they came out of the timeout, they were more physical.
Louisiana Tech started boxing out and grabbing offensive rebounds, chasing after loose balls and playing physical defense.
Sophomore Kyle Gibson fired his team up scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second half.
Eventually Louisiana Tech got as close as 10 points, but the run was too late to catch Fresno State.
â€œThey actually got a little testy,â€ Oâ€™Neil said. â€œThey came out prepared to try to cut into the lead, and they did. You got to give them credit.â€
â€œWe kind of had an emotional let down a little bit in the second half,â€ Cleveland said. â€œWe did what he had to do to win, and thatâ€™s the most important thing.â€
Next, the menâ€™s basketball team plays at home against the Utah State Aggies on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Utah State is currently the top-ranked team in the WAC led by the conferenceâ€˜s top scorer Jaycee Carroll.
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to it,â€ Miller said. â€œWe want to go out and basically play our best basketball on Thursday. We know theyâ€™re a great team. We are just looking to go out and get a good win.â€