In Wednesday’s game against the Nevada Wolf Pack, the Fresno State men’s basketball team played with discipline and committed fewer fouls.
Well done, Bulldogs.
But after 50 minutes, the Wolf Pack handed the Bulldogs their fourth-straight loss, downgrading them to 1-6 in the conference.
This game’s culprit: Nevada’s defense. The Wolf Pack had 12 blocks, with forward A.J. West totaling eight in the contest.
Fresno State has never sustained more than seven blocks in a single conference game this season.
Coming into Wednesday night’s matchup, Fresno State averaged 19.3 points in the paint per intraconference game. With an average of 77.2 points per Mountain West matchup, that means that one-quarter of the Bulldogs’ points each game came within 12 feet of the basket.
Countering that, Nevada was tied for second in the conference in blocks, averaging 5.2 per Mountain West game.
Seeing that, the Bulldogs should have been prepared for pressure in the paint.
Instead, every Fresno State starter had at least one shot blocked. Seven out of Nevada’s 12 blocks were rebounded by the defense, and three turned into Nevada field goals (seven points total).
On average, the Bulldogs suffer 3.33 blocks per conference contest. If Nevada only got three blocks, and let’s assume (based on Wednesday’s numbers) only one turned into a field goal for the Wolf Pack, then the game would have never gone to overtime.
No matter the half, Nevada would have scored fewer points in each stanza, and Fresno State would have more points under its belt (assuming each non-blocked
shot was successfully made).
What to work on against UNLV
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will visit the UNLV Rebels (12-7, 3-3 MW), and it will have to prepare for another defense-minded squad. To prevent another long game, Fresno State should focus on three important stats:
UNLV is second in the conference in rebounds, averaging 39.3 per game. Fresno State is dead last in rebounds allowed, averaging 41.7 (Keep in mind, the Rebels are first in the Mountain West in defensive rebounds). That means that the Bulldogs need to tighten up under the basket and fight off a few UNLV defenders to get the basketball.
2. Blocks (again)
The Bulldogs just finished a grueling matchup with the now-No. 1 blocking team in the conference; up next is No. 2. UNLV, which averages 5.8 per game, with nine against Utah State on Wednesday. If the Rebels are going to pay close attention to Fresno State’s performance, then they will understand that pressure in the paint should give them a victory.
So what does Fresno State have to do? It will have to play a cat-and-mouse game with the Rebels; perhaps fake a couple of shots and have them swatting at dead air. Predictable play in the paint could be the difference between a win and a loss.
3. Personal fouls
The challenge of it all is to stay away from getting into foul trouble. While the Bulldogs improved on their discipline against Nevada, they should not let Wednesday night’s game be an anomaly.
With a physical UNLV team next, there is the temptation to play hard and pick up a few fouls to slow down the Rebels. However, the penalties will turn into points very quickly, as UNLV makes nearly 75 percent of its free throws.
It will be another tough contest for Fresno State. As long as attention is paid to every part of the game, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to end their losing streak.