UW vs. Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

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.

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

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.

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UW at Fresno State men’s basketball Q&A

Here is my 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.

Tip off is at 8 p.m. MT at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

How would you assess the Bulldogs’ season so far at 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West? Is the team where you thought it would be at this point in the season?

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

For a team with three seniors in Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis and a couple of others that have played a lot of basketball in the Mountain West, the Bulldogs have been pretty inconsistent. Fresno State has not won back-to-back games against Division I opponents since Dec. 12 and 16 against Pacific and Bakersfield (263 and 167 RPI), and in conference play have followed up every win with a loss. We’ll see what happens against Wyoming, coming off a win at Air Force. They haven’t won more than two in a row since starting 5-0. The ability to get on a run is there, though. This is by far the best team coach Rodney Terry has had at Fresno State, which was a sizable rebuild job when he got there. This could be the Bulldogs’s best chance to go on a run with Wyoming at home, followed by a game at San Jose State before playing at home against UNLV (they beat the Rebels at Thomas & Mack) and San Diego State (they took the Aztecs to overtime at Viejas).

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UW-Fresno State men’s basketball Q&A

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 Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 7:35 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, and the game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

Since Wyoming’s crazy 70-65 triple overtime in at Fresno State on Jan. 17 the Bulldogs have lost five of their last eight games. Where have the struggles been with this team in your opinion?

Part of that is just some tough matchups on the road. Since then, Fresno State has played at San Diego State, at Colorado State and at UNLV. But over the past three games, which includes a home victory over Boise State and a home loss against the Rams, the defense

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

has been inconsistent. They beat Boise State by doing a great job against Derrick Marks down the final eight minutes of that game. You look at the box and see 31 points and think, “Big game,” and it was. But Marks made only one basket over the final 8:38, which came with 22 seconds remaining, and he got to the free throw line twice in that stretch. They had Boise a little lost without him – it hit only one of its last seven shots and scored only 22 points in the second half. Boise State was on an eight-game winning streak at the time, in which it had scored an average of 39.6 points in the second half. So, they have that kind of defensive effort in them. But they had a tough time against Colorado State and got sliced up a bit at Utah State. The Aggies beat them off the dribble, beat them off ball screens and took advantage of just about every open look they got at the 3-point line, and there were a lot of them. Utah State had 20 assists on 29 baskets and knocked down 10 3-pointers.

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UW-Fresno State men’s hoops: 3 takes, video and interviews

Where do you start to sum up No. 25 Wyoming’s 70-65 triple overtime win at Fresno State Saturday night?

Don’t know of three takes does it justice, but here we go:

1. Big Shot Hank: Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. made a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third overtime to seal the win for UW. It’s been Hankerson’s thing to make 3s late in the shot clock this season, and none were as big as this one. Maybe it wasn’t planned, and perhaps it was a bit lucky, but it was a huge shot. Hankerson finished with nine points, six rebounds and two assists.

Here are all the late-game highlights, including the final sequences in all three overtimes. Sorry for some of the obstructive views. And, here is Hankerson talking about his big shot.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

A little late in doing this as we are two weeks into the conference season, but I wanted to see a few conference games to start my weekly power rankings. But based on what’s happened, the picture isn’t much clearer.

Anyway, here is this week’s rankings along with this week’s list of games. As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. No. 25 Wyoming (15-2 overall, 4-0 MW): The only ranked team in the MW, the only team unbeaten in conference play and with the longest winning streak (seven). The Cowboys are far from perfect, but with the nation’s third-best scoring defense (52.2 ppg) and the league’s best player in senior forward Larry Nance Jr., UW sits atop the perch for now.

2. San Diego State (12-4, 2-1): Like Wyoming, the Aztecs are among the nation’s best defensive teams. The loss of senior wing Dwayne Polee II to an illness has had an impact, but there is no other team as long, athletic and versatile in the MW. This team may have trouble making shots, but as long as the defense remains solid, the Aztecs will be tough to beat.

3. New Mexico (11-5, 3-1): A little surprised to see the Lobos this high after losing guard Cullen Neal to a season-ending ankle injury, and dealing with a lot of other injuries. But the Lobos are grinding away and will be a factor in the conference race.

4. Fresno State (8-9, 3-1): Don’t let the overall record fool you, the Bulldogs are playing some good basketball, and own a 59-57 home win over San Diego State. They could get even better if point guard Cezar Guerrero comes back from his academic eligibility issues. Guard Marvelle Harris, the reigning MW Player of the Week, leads the conference in scoring at just over 18 points per game.

5. Colorado State (15-2, 2-2): The Rams have come down to earth somewhat after a 14-0 start. But this team is still very good and can win a lot of different ways. Point guard John Gillon is one of the quickest and toughest guys to defend in the league.

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UW-Fresno State postgame thoughts

When does a victory feel like a loss?

When you are the Wyoming men’s basketball team and your best player — junior forward Larry Nance Jr. — goes down with 14:51 to play with a knee injury that in all probability will end his season.

That’s what happened against Fresno State. The Cowboys won 72-66, which was impressive and should be appreciated as they won their third straight and improved to 17-9 overall and 8-5 in the Mountain West.

“It don’t think it looks good,” said UW coach Larry Shyatt, who added Nance will have an MRI Wednesday morning.

Nance was dominant before going out. He had 17 points — 15 in the first half — on 7 of 9 shooting. He didn’t put any weight on the knee as he was helped off the floor. He stayed either behind or on UW’s bench until the end of the game with a towel over his head.

Fans chanted “Larry, Larry” after the game as he was helped off the court by trainer Lance Schuemann and senior guard Nathan Sobey.

It was on the same end of the court where some other prominent UW players have injured their knees — Cheyenne’s Marcus Bailey in the early 2000s, Queint Higgins in the early 1990s and Mike Jackson in the early 1980s.

That A-A renovation, which includes a rotation of the court, can’t come soon enough.

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UW-Fresno St. men’s basketball Q&A

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.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

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.

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UW-Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

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 Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 8 p.m. at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

Despite its record the Bulldogs have been close in a lot of conference games, including going to overtime in the last two. What are the struggles with this team right now?

The Bulldogs are just young and have had trouble making plays to finish games. The double-overtime loss to Nevada they had the lead at the end of regulation and gave up a layup to Deonte Burton to tie with about 15 seconds to go and then couldn’t get much of a shot coming out of a timeout, and then in the first overtime they had a lead and let Cole Huff get to the rim for a layup with one second to go. Layups … That logically can’t happen, but it did.

They made similar mistakes in the overtime loss at UNLV, only at the offensive end. UNLV gave them a lot of chances to win it in regulation and the overtime, but they couldn’t make a play. A freshman turned the ball over on one key possession. They got switched into a tough shot on another. They rushed a put-back just ahead of the buzzer and missed that.

They’re taking some lumps learning how to really compete and succeed at this level.

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