Here is my question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie
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What is the health status of the Bulldogs heading into this game as they were without four frontcourt players in their last game at Nevada?
Fresno State will go into the game short, but could have at least one player back. Forward Torren Jones has been ruled out and forward Karachi Edo and center Terrell Carter II are doubtful. Forward Paul Watson (calf) could be back, but coach Rodney Terry said they are not going to push and risk further injury. Watson would be a critical piece against the Cowboys – he defended Josh Adams most of the second half in that first matchup down here and he was 3 of 12 over those 18 or so minutes.
Fresno State’s win over first-place San Diego State last week showed how good the Bulldogs are, but aside from the recent rash of injuries and illnesses, what has led to some of the inconsistent play with this group?
That’s a very good question. It’s a bit weird for an older team with guys like Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis that have played a lot of college basketball, but the consistency of effort hasn’t always been there. I think the loss at San Jose State with a chance to win a third conference game in a row was a tipping point, though, because they have been a lot more competitive since even while missing some key pieces. The Bulldogs beat UNLV without Jones, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in the first meeting. They beat San Diego State without Jones and Edo and with Watson going down early in the second half. They came from 13 down in the second half to force overtime before losing at Nevada, losing Carter that morning. They’re just are competing much better now than they did early in the year.
Marvelle Harris was voted as the Preseason MW Player of the Year. Has he led up to that billing this season?
Not much has changed there and Harris is in his best stretch in a while. He had a poor game in that loss at San Jose State, hitting only 2 of 16 shots and scoring a season-low seven points. But since then he has scored 37 in a double-overtime victory over UNLV, 20 in a victory over San Diego State and 25 in the overtime loss last out at Nevada with 8.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.3 steals. He has played 133 minutes in those games with only three turnovers, and the ball is in his hands a lot.
What were some of your takes from the first game between Wyoming and Fresno State — a 71-60 Bulldogs win in Fresno on Jan. 26?
The thing that really stood out in that game was how Wyoming got all clunky at the offensive end in the second half when Fresno State had more success defending Adams with a longer body in the 6-7 Watson. In the first half, Adams was 4 of 7 and got to the line seven times going 7 of 7 and everything was moving well. The Cowboys hit 52.6 percent of their shots, were scoring 1.194 points per possession and led by 37-33. In the second half, Adams was 3 of 12 and Wyoming didn’t react to it very well. There was a stretch of almost 13 minutes where the Cowboys scored 11 points, 10 by Adams going 2 of 7, and everyone else on the floor went 0 of 6 with three turnovers. The PPP fell to .676.
How do you see Wednesday’s game in Laramie playing out, and what are some of the key matchups and trends you will be watching?
I don’t know if the result will be different, but I expect given the missing pieces Fresno State probably will have to play differently to win, especially if Watson is not 100 percent. They were in man through just about all of that first game and they have been primarily in zone the past two games. Against San Diego State they were short Edo and Jones and the Aztecs’ obviously have difficulty knocking down shots. Against Nevada they were down all of their bigs except for Cullen Russo so they had to keep everyone out of foul trouble and on the floor and the Wolf Pack, they’re not exactly great on the perimeter, either. Nevada and San Diego State are 10th and 11th in the Mountain West shooting it at the three-point line. I’m guessing Fresno State will have to use some if not a lot more zone, and it is not a staple, so we’ll probably find out how effective it can be against a team that can actually make shots. Wyoming obviously can. I don’t know that Fresno State can have that same success if they’re having to zone and down a lot of key pieces.
Cowboys game day
Game: Fresno State (16-9 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) at Wyoming (12-14, 5-8)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (96.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com