Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Utah State Aggies
Fresno State basketball hit a bit of a stride for the first time in over five weeks, and it could not come with better timing.
The Bulldogs won three straight games from Feb. 3 through Feb. 7 for just the second time this season, but now travel to Western Athletic Conference powerhouse Utah State on Saturday.
Head coach Steve Cleveland’s Bulldogs have lost eight straight games to the Aggies, dating back to 2007. Fresno State hosted Utah State last month and lost 52-39 in the Bulldogs’ worst offensive output all season.
Fresno State held the Aggies to 52 points, the best for a Utah State opponent this year. But the ‘Dogs shot a season-low 27 percent from the field and scored also scored a season-low 39 points.
Since the loss, the team has posted a 4-4 record but has had stellar play from guard Kevin Olekaibe. The true freshman missed Monday’s game against Cal State Bakersfield nursing a wrist injury, but is averaging a team-best 13 points per game.
Center Greg Smith also garnered WAC Player of the Week honors for his play from Jan. 31 through Feb. 6. During the week, Smith averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game. He will likely have to defend Utah State star forward Tai Wesley.
Just when it looked like Utah State would cruise to a perfect Western Athletic Conference regular-season record, the Aggies got a wakeup call on the road.
Idaho, who sits fourth in the conference standings, knocked off the nationally-ranked Aggies 64-56 on Wednesday. The loss snapped Utah State’s 17-game winning streak, but the Aggies still have a firm hold at the top of the WAC standings.
The loss was only the third for the Aggies this season. The other two losses came at the hands of nationally-ranked BYU and Georgetown.
The Aggies are led by first-team All-WAC forward Tai Wesley who averages 14 points and eight rebounds per game. Wesley posted a double-double in Utah State’s loss to Idaho.
The Aggies’ second and third leading scorers come from their frontcourt in guards Brockeith and Brian Green. The trio of Wesley, Brockeith and Green combine to score 36 points per game, more than half of the team’s nightly output.
Utah State has won the last two regular-season WAC titles, posting a 39-5 record in conference play since the 2007-08 season.
Head coach Stew Morrill, who is in his 13th season at the helm, has been awarded the last two WAC Coach of the Year honors.
Keys to Victory
1. Force three-point attempts
The Aggies shot just 33 percent from beyond the arc in the loss to Idaho. Utah State was 5 of 28 on threes.
2. Get Ned going
During Fresno State’s three-game winning streak, the senior scored in double figures. Golubovic’s strong play inside frees up looks for center Greg Smith.
3. Get a spark off the bench
The starters scored just 25 points for the Bulldogs last time these two teams met. The problem is, the bench had just 14 themselves. Getting some life off the bench from guards Garrett Johnson or Tyler Johnson could make the difference on the upset bid.