Utah State rallies behind big second half in victory over Fresno State

Fresno State forward Orlando Robinson pulls up for a two-pointer in the first half of its game against Utah State at the Save Mart Center on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Kameron Thorn/The Collegian)

The Fresno State men’s basketball team suffered a 69-53 loss against the Utah State Aggies Thursday night at the Save Mart Center.

Everything collapsed in the second half when Utah State (13-5, 10-2 MW) got ahead of Fresno State (5-6, 7-6 MW) recording 11 straight points in a little over four minutes. Utah State (13-5, 10-2 MW) set the tone for the rest of the game early in the second half, giving the Aggies the win over Fresno State (5-6, 7-6 MW) on Thursday night.

“We’re not trying to just hang with the good teams,” Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson said, “We’re inconsistent with what we’re doing. It’s not all us. There’s good teams that step it up. And they make good plays themselves also. But we have to get rid of the ones where we shoot ourselves in the foot.”

One of those inconsistent trends for Fresno State was its shooting. The Bulldogs shot 37% from the field. Specifically, the Bulldogs struggled from shooting beyond the arc, making only 23% of their attempts from 3. 

Fresno State continues a trend of shooting poorly from 3 as the Bulldogs have remained under 40% for the past six games.

Hutson said the team needs a shift in their mentality in order to see more progression on the court.

“We can’t be more consistent on the floor until we’re more consistent with our mentality,”  Hutson said.

The Bulldogs managed to keep the game close, but the Aggies held on to a tight 25-23 with 3:21 left in the first half. Aggies’ guard Steven Ashworth kicked off a 6-point scoring streak with a 3-point shot. Utah State guard Marco Anthony followed it up by finishing a layup and completed the and-one. 

But the Bulldogs kept fighting through. Anthony Holland responded with a 3-point shot, and Chrisitan Gray made a layup plus the foul to trim the Aggies’ lead to four, 33-29.

And that’s as close as they would get to Utah State. The Aggies came out firing before they recorded the critical 11-point scoring streak.

Neemias Queta was fouled just 21 seconds into the game and made both of his free throws. Utah State guard Brock Miller hit a 3 to extend Utah State’s lead to 37-29. 

Fresno State’s Junior Ballard tried to get it going by making one of the team’s four 3-pointers, but not too long after Queta responded by hitting a free throw and a jump shot. Similarly, Devin Gage hit another 3-point shot, but Queta again responded by driving through the paint and making a layup plus the foul. That play fueled the Aggies 11-point run, putting the game out of reach for the Bulldogs.

Queta — the 2019 Mountain West freshman of the year and defensive player of the year — bounced back in the second half by dropping 12 points, as opposed to just two points in the first half. 

But the bench really stepped up for the Aggies, earning 32 points on the night. Ashworth and Alphonso Anderson were a big part of that production as they combined for 23 points.

“I’m proud of how we played in the second half,” Utah State head coach Craig Smith said. “We really established Queta inside, and that makes the game easier for everybody. I thought we defended very hard, and executed our game plan. We made it a lot more difficult for them in the second half.” 

“We had 17 assists on 26 made baskets, that’s an outstanding number. Our bench was outstanding tonight, we scored 32 points off the bench. Our bench was big for us tonight.”

Unlike Fresno State, the Aggies shot well from the field, making 50% of their shots from the field and 42% of their 3-point attempts. They continue to battle for first place in the MW, being one game behind Boise State and one game in front of third place Colorado State.

None of the Bulldogs reached 10 points. Christian Gray led the way with nine, followed by Orlando Robinson with eight and Braxton Meah with seven.

Anthony Holland has nailed 21 points from the three in the past three games, his best all season.

“We gotta work with what we have and make no excuses,” Holland said. “We gotta play the right way no matter what the circumstance is.”

Fresno State will host Utah State for the series finale on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m.

Previous Story Fresno State begins construction on new viticulture greenhouse article thumbnail mt-3

Fresno State begins construction on new viticulture greenhouse

Next Story Fresno State begins search for new president with virtual open forum article thumbnail mt-3

Fresno State begins search for new president with virtual open forum