The Fresno State men’s basketball team achieved a Save Mart Center record after shooting 65 percent in the game to outlast conference foes New Mexico Lobos 89-80 at the Save Mart Center on Friday.
“We knew coming into today that we wanted to control the paint,” senior guard Ray Bowles Jr. said. “I think all of our shots tonight were good shots, even the ones we missed were pretty good. I think that being able to share the ball on offense gave us a great look and resulted in us shooting at such a high percentage.”
After gifting their rivals Boise State a 70-64 victory, guard Jaron Hopkins stressed how important it was to get back into practice to fix their mistakes, fouling specifically.
“It has been pretty hard and intense as always. We just tried to get back to the basics,” Hopkins said. “We practiced guarding guys without fouling; we kind of got in a slump with our fouls. We just need to keep working at it and continue to get better without fouling.”
After opening the game with zero points in the first half, guard Deshon Taylor led his team with 22 second-half points.
Whether it was his dead-eye range from deep or his relentless will to attack the basket, Taylor brought his team back into the Mountain West Conference conversation.
Taylor may have scored the baskets, but Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry contributed ball movement to his players’ second-half performance.
“If you look at our record, we are 10-1 when we have 15 or more assists,” Terry said. “We share the basketball and are out there moving.”
Their hot shooting captured the record for best field goal percentage ever inside he Save Mart Center. The Bulldogs shot 65 percent from the field, only missing 17 shots while almost doubling that in made baskets.
Along with Taylor, Bryson Williams, Bowles Jr. and Hopkins combined for 64 points. Both inside and out, the Bulldogs aggressive mindset paid off.
Fresno State opened the match targeting the Lobos interior defense. With a plethora of big men on the roster, the Bulldogs went to work down low.
Within the first seven and a half minutes to play, the Bulldogs raced out to a 14-point lead. They capitalized on weak defense by converting 15 of their first 18 shots.
Their defense also came to play early on, forcing the Lobos into tough shots every trip down the court.
A combination of physical defense and high-percentage shooting paved the way for the Bulldogs early foothold.
After a Lobos timeout, Terrell Carter II continued his inspired start to the game. He received the entry pass, took a power dribble and finished over the contact.
The Bulldogs lead reached 14 after the Williams and Carter combined down low for the score. Williams, with nine points in the game already, found Carter who had perfect post position.
Fresno State’s willingness to attack the paint proved worthwhile. New Mexico opted to key in on the Bulldogs post play but didn’t realize they boast one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference.
After New Mexico answered with a deep three-point shot to cut it to single digits, Jahmel Taylor responded with a three of his own to push the lead back over 10 points.
Fresno State held a strong lead throughout the first half, but began to wilt towards the halftime whistle.
The Lobos staged a furious comeback in the last two minutes of the first half. New Mexico made plays on both sides of the court, stopping the Bulldogs on one end and converting tough buckets on the other.
Makuach Maluach led the Lobos with 21 points. His ability to finish at the rim with Williams and Carter hounding him gave the New Mexico a chance and they took it, tiring the game at 40 with a jumper.
However, with the game all notched at 40, Hopkins took the ball the length of the court before tossing up a short floater that sunk, bringing the crowd to their feet and recapturing the momentum heading into halftime.
Fresno State opened the second half with three consecutive deep triples and never looked back. Although New Mexico made some shots down the stretch, Taylor’s 22-point half paced Fresno State to the conference victory.
The Bulldogs move to 13-6, 3-3 on the season with a matchup against the San Diego State Aztecs on the horizon.
“It is a program that we have a lot of respect for, Terry said. “They have done a lot of great things in this league. Brian Dutcher has been there the whole time and has been instrumental in helping build that program. San Diego State is an established program in this league.”