Utah State's seen this kind of start before, but it was No. 1-ranked UNLV that did it, not a team with a losing record.
It was more a function of the Aggies' own listlessness this time as Fresno State, which improved to 6-8 with the win, opened Thursday's Big West game with an 11-0 run against USU. Utah State got in it a little at 23-9, then saw Fresno go up 45-16 with five minutes left in the first half.The Bulldogs, playing at their own Selland Arena, trimmed Utah State 107-86. The loss threw USU into a third-place tie with Pacific, a winner over Fullerton, at 7-6. They meet Saturday in Stockton, Calif.
UNLV started off a little stronger, 16-0 against USU on Jan. 28 in Logan, and the Rebels carried it to 46-24 with five left in the half. But there was little disgrace in that.
Thursday, "It was a total team effort on the loss," said Coach Kohn Smith. "We were flat-footed, we didn't get the loose balls, we weren't getting back defensively; it just all went to heck in a handbasket."
Smith said it was as poor as his team's played all season, and, "I'm the most disappointed I've been with our defense all year."
To open the game, guard Dave Barnett hit a three-pointer, followed by a three-pointer, a two-pointer and a three-pointer from forward Wilbert Hooker, who finished with a season-high 30 points. He was 6-for-12 from three-point range and shot 12-for-20 overall. He had five thee-pointers and 17 points in the first 15 minutes.
Barnett, who had 11 assists, also had a game-high 10 rebounds. "Their guards outscrapped our guards," Smith said.
"It wasn't so important that they hit their first five shots, but we came down and had two or three turnovers, just fumbles," said Smith. "That really broke us right there.
"It was pretty much over in the first five minutes of the game. What a terrible way to start. They just beat us every way you can," said Smith.
The Bulldogs, the worst-rebounding team in the Big West, outrebounded the Aggies 44-25. Forward Randy Funk, who led USU with 16 points on seven-for-10 shooting, had one rebound in the game; Rich Jardine led the club with five, followed by four from Bryon Ruffner.
Smith called the rebounding, "A real barometer of our effort."
He said he had a feeling something was coming because the Aggies practiced well all week until Wednesday night in Fresno.
"I had to really get after the players to snap them into playing shape mentally," he said, and that didn't work, either. "You can't hit them with a stick," he said. "They've got to get that done themselves."
The Aggies managed to shoot 51 percent from the field for the night, and 55 percent shooting the second half helped them stay even the rest of the way. It hardly mattered.