GAME NOTES: Coming off their first Mountain West Conference loss of the season, the Nevada Wolf Pack try to get back on the winning track tonight as they tangle with the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center.
Nevada had been riding a four-game win streak, but the team was upended eight days ago by Boise State at home, 74-65, which means the Pack is now just 4-5 at home on the campaign. However, when it comes to playing on an opponent's home floor, Nevada has somehow pulled out five wins in seven opportunities.
As for the Bulldogs, they were involved in a slugfest against New Mexico at home on Saturday night and came away with an 89-78 setback, dropping them to just 1-5 in league play. Losers of three straight and five of the last six, FSU is still a solid 7-3 at home this season.
The Pack owns a 50-38 advantage in the all-time series with Fresno State, dating back to the 1924-25 campaign. Nevada had built a five-game win streak recently, but saw it come to an end with a 69-64 overtime loss at home in the most recent encounter last season.
With leading scorer Deonte Burton putting up a mere seven points on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor, clearly the Pack were destined to have their problems against Boise State. Despite playing at home, Nevada came up short versus the Broncos in a nine-point decision the last time out. Jerry Evans tried to give the hosts hope with his 17 points and eight rebounds, as did Michael Perez and Cole Huff with 16 and 12 points, respectively, but there was no way to recover from a first half that saw the program converted a mere six field goals.
One of three Nevada players to have started every game thus far, Burton is pouring in 20.9 ppg and is first on the unit with 70 assists, but you can see what happens when he has a bad game. Burton is now shooting just 31.6 percent behind the 3-point line, but continues to thrive at the free-throw line (101- of-133) where he has made far more shots than any teammate has attempted. Evans (13.1 ppg) and Perez (12.3 ppg) try to give the group a presence out on the perimeter, but still they have their problems.
In the first half, the Bulldogs and Lobos combined to take just five shots at the free-throw line, but over the final 20 minutes that number jumped to a staggering 69 and it was a 26-of-38 showing at the charity stripe that helped lift UNM to the road win. From an offensive standpoint, Tyler Johnson put up 16 points for the hosts, followed by Cezar Guerrero and Marvelle Harris with 15 points apiece, but the duo combined to make only 9-of-29 from the floor. Before fouling out, Paul Watson tacked on 12 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
The Bulldogs have a total of four double-digit scorers on the roster and yet they are still putting up only 73.6 ppg. Granted, that's a solid number these days, but when you consider the defense is giving up 73.1 ppg it means Fresno State is living too close to the edge. Harris is responsible for 15.4 ppg and Johnson another 15.3 ppg, the latter placing first on the glass with 6.8 rpg. Guerrero is not that far behind with 14.1 ppg, but it might be his passing that is even more important as he's handed out 77 assists.
A much more confident bunch at home this season, the Bulldogs should be contention in this meeting. However, considering Burton had such an awful showing the last time out and has had so much time to think about it, expect him to try and take over for the Pack and get the visitors the win tonight.
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