On the attack to make it back-to-back

Fresno State forward Karachi Edo (#4) dunks during a Mountain West Conference game against San Diego State at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 4, 2017. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)

The Fresno State men’s basketball team will get its first taste of Mountain West Conference tournament play this week as it is set to defend its title, facing off against the New Mexico Lobos Thursday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

The Bulldogs are riding a five-game winning streak heading into the tournament and have wrapped up the regular season going 19-11 overall and 11-7 in conference play.

Fresno State enters the contest against the Lobos as the No. 4 seed. New Mexico (17-13, 10-8 MW) enters as the No. 5 seed.

The ’Dogs split the season series with the Lobos with each team getting a win as it defended its home court.

After defeating UNLV last Saturday afternoon, head coach Rodney Terry said the team needs to focus on defense if it hopes to repeat last year’s success.

“We won some big ballgames down the stretch and in difficult places last year. I think our defense has been really good, and it was pretty good at this time last year, as well,” Terry said. “When you go on the road in postseason play, you win with your defense. Everything we have done here over the last five games that we have been able to win has been predicated on our solid defense and finishing possessions.”

Fresno State redshirt sophomore guard Deshon Taylor and redshirt junior guard Jaron Hopkins earned Mountain West honors. Taylor was named to the All-MW third team by the conference’s head coaches and was also named to the All-MW second team by a MW media panel. Hopkins was recognized for his skills on the defensive side, earning a spot on the Mountain West’s All-Defensive Team by the conference’s coaches and named to the All-MW third team by a MW media panel.

Hopkins reiterated Terry’s thoughts about carrying the defensive mentality going into the tournament.

“Our defense has really picked up, and we are paying attention to our strategies from coach [Jerry] Wainwright,” Hopkins said. “He has done a really good job on those. Hopefully, we can take all of that down to Vegas with us.”

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