GAME NOTES: Former members of the Western Athletic Conference get together for a Mountain West battle tonight, as the Nevada Wolf Pack entertain the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
The Pack is trying to avoid notching their second three-game slide of the season tonight, after having dropped three in a row back in late November during the Las Vegas Invitational. Last week, Nevada was taken down in a pair of road dates versus Utah State (83-75) and fifth-ranked San Diego State (73-58) to fall to 7-4 in conference play.
While Nevada is heading backward, the Bulldogs are showing an upward trend with three straight victories for the first time in 2013-14. The team began the run with a 67-62 triumph over Wyoming at home in late January and then carried it forward with a 68-51 romp over Air Force to kick off the month of February. On Saturday, the team erupted for an 82-56 thrashing of in-state rival San Jose State at the Save Mart Center.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Pack holds a 51-38 advantage over FSU after posting a 96-86 double-overtime victory in the first meeting of the campaign last month at the Save Mart Center.
The Fresno State defense was all over the Spartans on Saturday, limiting the visitors to a mere 17 field goals, while forcing 13 turnovers, en route to the 26-point win at home. Cezar Guerrero was the high man in the scoring column with 23 points, followed by Marvelle Harris with 16 as he knocked down all four of his 3-point tries. Tyler Johnson responded with a double-double consisting of 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, adding four assists for good measure.
Johnson's performance over the weekend pretty much fell in line with what he's been able to accomplish this season, as he leads the program in both scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg), pitching in with 61 assists (second on the team) as well. Harris chips in with 14.6 ppg and right behind him is Guerrero with 14.2 ppg, thanks to a team-best 55 3-pointers. But in addition to being a perimeter scoring threat, Guerrero also shows his quick hands with 97 assists and 38 steals.
Nevada was able to stay within striking distance at the break against San Diego State, trailing by just six points, but then the Aztecs picked up the pace at both ends of the floor to put some distance between themselves and the Pack. Nevada was led by Jerry Evans Jr. with 17 points, while Cole Huff and Deonte Burton both tallied 11, but while the latter also contributed six rebounds and five assists, he shot only 4-of-15 from the floor.
Burton, who scored at least 20 points in seven of the first eight games of the season, has come up a bit small in a few games lately, but still he is one of the better scorers in the conference with 20.7 ppg. A starter in all 122 career games with the Wolf Pack, Burton is also first on the unit with 3.9 apg and has logged both 39 steals and 4.3 rpg as he helps out in every manner possible. Evans (13.4 ppg) and Huff (11.9 ppg) combine for 11.4 rpg to give the group some punch in the paint.
Fresno State has been on a roll of late, but if the Wolf Pack have any hope of being in serious contention to play beyond the conference tournament next month, these are the games that Burton and Evans need to take control of and bring home for the win.
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