The schedule – with the previous Mountain West Conference matchup a blowout loss to San Diego State – isn’t going to get any easier for the Fresno State men’s basketball team.
Fresno State has shown flashes of success in the hypercompetitive Mountain West, recently grabbing its biggest win of the season against UNLV.
But the Bulldogs have endured tough home losses and are winless on the road in their conference campaign.
There are eight conference games remaining (three of them are at home) for the Bulldogs, who are looking to get back up after their knockout at San Diego State.
Tonight at the Save Mart Center, the Bulldogs face another tough opponent in New Mexico, a team Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said is “probably the most complete team in our league.”
The Lobos (20-4, 7-2 MWC), ranked 19th by the Associated Press, are first in the Mountain West standings.
Terry described the Lobos as being physical – a team that has fared well defensively against conference competition. New Mexico ranks second in scoring defense among Mountain West schools, holding conference foes to an average of 59.8 points per game.
The Bulldogs, who at times have had to play young in the post against top-notch Mountain West big men such as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and Colorado State Colton Iverson, have to sharpen their physicality against the Lobos, Terry said.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on all year. You’ve got to be physical,” Terry said.
“Again, our young guys are really figuring it out at a high level in terms of you’ve got to block out more than one time or one possession. It may take three block outs to finish a possession with any particular guy.
“We’ve got to do a better job of holding block outs and finishing out possessions with defensive rebounds. I thought over the last couple of weeks our guards have done a good job of coming down and helping our big guys.”
Guards Kendall Williams (13.3 points per game) and Tony Snell (11.6 points per game) lead the Lobos in scoring.
“They can play big. They can play small,” Terry said. “They’re a team that doesn’t beat themselves.”
In conference play, Fresno State is averaging 57.1 points per game, second-last in the conference. It is last among Mountain West schools in field goal percentage (38 percent).
Fresno State had just completed its roster last week against UNLV with freshman forward Braeden Anderson being cleared to play (he scored 12 points against San Diego State off the bench).
The Bulldogs have to mesh better on offense, guard Tyler Johnson said.
“A lot of it has to do with team chemistry,” said Johnson, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer. “We have a lot of new guys coming in. … It’s just getting everybody to work together.”
The Lobos are coming off a 64-55 loss on the road to UNLV, whom the Bulldogs beat at home by that same score.
“In this league, home court has been pretty big for a lot of teams. I think you can’t have a false sense of security, though in thinking that just because you’re home your going to win the game.”