A 3-3 record in Mountain West Conference play is fitting for the Bulldogs men’s basketball team that has been so hot and cold to start the season.
After a seven-game win streak that ran from the middle of November to mid-December, the ‘Dogs have yet to re-establish that game.
The team’s inconsistent play is a new trend this season, but what is not are the struggles causing it.
Free-throw shooting is something head coach Rodney Terry has been stressing since the start of the team’s exhibition games in October. But the team is currently shooting 66.9 percent from the line, which ranks the ‘Dogs ninth in the conference.
“We make [free throws] during practice,” guard Jaron Hopkins said. “Everybody at least shoots 75 percent or better in practice.”
Hopkins added that shooting them in the game is much different because of fatigue and loss of focus. The guard said making shots come down to simply applying the form they have learned and never straying from it.
This time around, free throws are also causing problems on the defensive end. The Bulldogs are giving away an unsettling amount of points at the line.
Bulldog opponents have shot a total of 134 free throws this season. This is the most a team has given up in the conference. Those same opponents are making nearly 80 percent of those free throws when facing the ‘Dogs.
“We just got to play without using our hands, this year in college basketball the officiating is much tighter,” Hopkins said. “We’re an aggressive team on defense.”
The team has been surrendering a high number of points, even in its wins. In the six conference games, the team is surrendering an average of 74.8 points per game.
“We lose sight of what’s most important, and that’s getting stops. We have to take pride in our defense and not worry so much about offensive execution,” forward Sam Bittner said.
The offensive execution is definitely something the team has been doing well. The ‘Dogs rank second in the conference and 15th in the nation in field-goal percentage.
In their victory against New Mexico on Saturday, the ‘Dogs set a school record for 3-point percentage in a game when they made nine of 12 attempts (75 percent). The ‘Dogs won 89-80.
“I thought our guys did a really good job at attacking and making decisive, simple plays. I thought we did a nice job of finishing around the basket tonight,” Terry said after the game.
When the ‘Dogs find a rhythm in their offense and maintain it throughout the course of an entire game, the team usually finds a way to win. The team is 10-1 in games where it finishes with 15 or more assists.
But, when the offense is not there, the defense is not there to make up for the lack of scoring. This is ironic seeing how much Terry emphasizes defense.
“We are going to be a whole different team by the time we get to the [Mountain West] tournament. There is still a whole lot of basketball left. We are only five games into conference play,” Terry had said after their 70-64 loss to Boise State on Jan. 9.
Terry added that he feels the team is nowhere near its full potential at either end of the floor.
Fresno State will continue to try to tap into that potential as it leaves the Valley for its next two games. The ‘Dogs play San Diego State on Wednesday and Air Force on Jan. 20.