WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 7:05 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. The game will be televised on Root Sports.
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The Bulldogs have won five straight, which started with a 67-62 win over Wyoming Jan. 29. What have the Bulldogs done well to go on this run?
Simple as it sounds, they’re just competing much better. It started with a 19-point loss at Colorado State, in which the Rams just bullied them down the final 10 minutes and ran away from them. Colorado State was a plus-16 on the boards, scored 30 points in the paint and hit 52.4 percent of its shots in the second half, which for that team is a big number. In beating the Rams on Saturday, they turned a lot of those numbers completely around. In the first half, Fresno State had an 18-4 edge in points in the paint, hit 53.8 percent of the shots it took and held up better on the glass. The Bulldogs also forced 11 turnovers in the first half against a team that hadn’t turned it over that many times in 20 of its first 25 games.
They flew home after that loss in Fort Collins and went straight from the airport to the gym and practiced for two hours, which they never do, working on box-outs and getting after the 50-50 balls and just playing a stronger game. They needed to get tougher, and they have.
In Fresno State’s win over Wyoming last month, what do you think were the biggest factors?
The two things that I remember from that game is Wyoming missed a lot of free throws and Fresno State did a pretty good job limiting what Larry Nance got in the second half. Nance had 20 in the game, but only had six down the last 12 or 14 minutes or so. I remember he took a bad shot from the 3-point line and turned it over a couple of times. He was missing jump shots, which I know he can make, but a month ago Fresno State was not defending around the basket as strong as it is now. I expected him to get more inside.
I guess the third thing is Fresno State shot an unusually high number in that game – it was 53.3 percent. That is the best anyone has done against Wyoming this season.
The Bulldogs had all nine of their players score at least two points in the first meeting with the Cowboys. Will that be another key in this game?
I’d think so. You have to think it’s going to be a low possession game, not a lot there in transition for either team. Tyler Johnson had 20 in the first game, and he’d be the guy Wyoming has to slow down. But Fresno State also is a little different at that end than they were last month and has the potential to be better in this game. Marvelle Harris was working his way out of a shooting slump going into that game – he was 14 for his last 60 over five games – and I’d think Cezar Guerrero will be able to get himself more involved. He had foul issues in that first game, picking up three and a technical on a … questionable play on his part. I guess that’s the best way to put that. He only got 15 minutes in that game. Fresno State has Johnson, it has Harris playing better, it has Guerrero. Paul Watson can score and has shot it better on the road than at home in conference play. Alex Davis is coming off a solid game against Colorado State in which he was much more active around the basket – 6 of 8, 14 points. They have more options and those options are playing better than they were when these teams first played this season, so might as well make Wyoming defend them.
Forwards Alex Davis and Paul Watson seemed to do a good job inside against Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. Will that be a key for the Bulldogs in this game?
Huge, I’d think. Fresno State has been much better defending around the rim, but it’s an area they’re vulnerable because they’re not very deep or experienced. They have been getting a lot better, but have had games where they give up a lot of points in the paint. I think Karachi Edo, another of the freshmen, will have to play some more minutes in this game as well.
How do you see this game unfolding? Do you anticipate a similar game as the one last month in Fresno?
I would think it will be similar, maybe lower scoring than the first match up. Fresno State had 1.22 points per possession in that game, which will be difficult for them to duplicate on the road. It should be a fun game to watch.