Like Pacific, which Utah State took care of easily on Thursday night, 7-9, 2-5 Fresno State enters the Spectrum tonight (7:38) as a potentially difficult opponent that has lost some it shouldn't have but won a big upset and came close to another.
Utah State Coach Kohn Smith predicts "it'll be much tougher" than the Pacific game, but he also expects the 6-8, 3-2 Aggies to be more mentally aware than they were Thursday after a bomb threat closed the school but didn't postpone the game.Fresno's recent claims to fame are a 77-73 home win over Long Beach, which was thought to be a contender; a 77-71 win at Santa Barbara, another predicted contender; and a five-point loss at home Monday to the Big West's No. 2 team, New Mexico State.
But then, the Bulldogs lost Thursday in overtime at last-place San Jose, 94-92, and their road record is 1-5 for the season.
This is a very different Fresno team than those of the past as new Coach Gary Colson has the Bulldogs on the run - something to interest the runnin' Ags. "They have really good athletes who run up and down the floor and shoot quickly," says Smith.
Statistics bear that out. This is the highest-scoring Bulldog team in 21 years, averaging 83.7 points a game. The Aggies average 80 for the season, 90 for the league. Fresno is also the second-most accurate shooting team in the league, right behind No. 1-ranked UNLV, making 48 percent of its shots. The Bulldogs made 56 percent of their shots in Thursday's loss.
6-foot-5 forward Tod Bernard (36 points, 10 rebounds Thursday) is among league leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, and Dave Barnett is second in the league in assists, averaging 7.6 a night.
Meanwhile, Fresno is the poorest-rebounding team in the league, beaten in that category in eight of its last 10 games.
That's good news for the Aggies, who are starting to outrebound opponents since getting into league play.
Another Aggie strength should be tested tonight. For one, they don't allow many opponents to shoot a good percentage - only one of the last 10 has hit 50 percent.
Guard Jay Goodman should be back at full strength. He didn't practice much during the week because of an ankle sprain but had no trouble Thursday and practiced Friday.
Smith has used seven different starting lineups this season and could pull out another tonight with Goodman back and Smith highly displeased with Thursday's second-half indifference.