Bull­dogs knock down We­ber State

The Fresno Bee - - Sports - BY ROBERT KUWADA [email protected]­nobee.com

We­ber State was av­er­ag­ing 90.3 points per game, had been in triple dig­its three times in seven games. Two were against Bethesda and Bene­dic­tine, du­bi­ous at best as far as level of com­pe­ti­tion goes. But the third of those games was against BYU last out, a win, the Wild­cats’ sec­ond in a row and fifth in six games.

But Fresno State took them apart in a 71-52 vic­tory on Wed­nes­day night at the Save Mart Cen­ter, the Bull­dogs’ pres­sure up the floor and man-to-man de­fense caus­ing a lot of is­sues for a team that had not had much dif­fi­culty scor­ing.

We­ber State got to 52 points only with a banked 3-poin­ter with 28 sec­onds to go, its fewest points in a game since a 67-49 loss at Stan­ford in 2016.

The Wild­cats hit just 33.3 per­cent of their shots, their low­est since hit­ting 30.2 per­cent in a loss to Den­ver in 2016.

The Bull­dogs took them away from what they want to do, and do best.

We­ber State also had just three as­sists on its 17 bas­kets and an as­sisted bas­ket per­cent­age of 17.6, its low­est since 12.5 in a loss at North­ern Ari­zona in 2014.

“They haven’t played any­body that plays good de­fense yet, so we showed them what that’s about,” said for­ward Nate Grimes, who in just 20 min­utes on the floor scored 14 points with seven re­bounds, one as­sist, two blocked shots and two steals.

The Bull­dogs (6-2) had some prob­lems early at the of­fen­sive end. They turned it over 12 times in the first half and strug­gled through a stretch where they missed nine shots in a row and 10 of 12. Coach Justin Hut­son kept the Bull­dogs in the locker room at half­time for a while, long enough to fix those is­sues, and once they did they

were able to ex­tend a lead that was 10 at the break.

“I think we had 12 turnovers at half­time and we ended up with 17,” he said. “That’s much bet­ter, five in the sec­ond half. Didn’t like the five in the sec­ond half, but the 12, most of them were un­forced, forc­ing it into places that weren’t open.

“I said, ‘We’re much bet­ter play­ers than we’re show­ing and we need to make sure we move the ball and make bet­ter de­ci­sions if we want to come out on top.’“

The Bull­dogs led by as many as 24, in­side two min­utes to play.

They also con­tin­ued to find some con­sis­tent play be­hind Deshon Tay­lor, Sam Bit­tner and Brax­ton Hug­gins, a key in a se­v­engame home stand that now in­cludes vic­to­ries over Pa­cific, Cal Poly and We­ber State, with Long Beach State vis­it­ing Satur­day.

Grimes hit 7 of 11 shots in scor­ing a sea­son-high 14 points in one of his most pro­duc­tive games of the sea­son. Guard Noah Black­well re­turned to the start­ing lineup after com­ing off the bench in the past five games and in a sea­son-high 37 min­utes hit 5 of 10 shots in scor­ing 16 points with three as­sists and two steals.

The Fresno State starters hit 24 of 52 shots, 46.2 per­cent.

“We have some good play­ers,” Hut­son said. “Bas­ket­ball is funny like that – you never know whose night it’s go­ing to be. We def­i­nitely have some se­niors that are lead­ing us, for sure, but we’ve got some good play­ers and guys come back and they work hard in prac­tice.

“When they work hard in prac­tice and they watch film and they see some of the things they’re do­ing re­ally well and some of the things that are the rea­son they’re not play­ing as much. It’s very grat­i­fy­ing to see some­body like Noah and Nate come back and have two good prac­tices and then have some suc­cess on the floor.”

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