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Is This Sparta?

A look at Wednesday’s game from the Bulldog side of things.

NCAA Basketball: Fresno State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Fresno State Bulldogs (18-8, 8-5 conference) faced off against the San Jose State Spartans (3-21, 0-13 conference) on Wednesday night, and after the ‘Dogs got rolling, the Spartans couldn’t catch up. Looking to remain even with UNLV, the ‘Dogs came into The Event Center in San Jose with confidence – and that confidence was not misplaced. After playing a relatively strong first half, the ‘Dogs turned on the steam in the second half, at one point leading by as many as twenty-two points before ending the night with a 77-57 victory over the last place Spartans.

The game did not get off to a stellar start however, with the Spartans coming out hot in the first half. Spartan Freshman Keith Fisher led the Spartans in scoring in the first half with 7 points. However, the inconsistency of the Spartans showed, and Fisher was not excluded from that statistic, going 3 for 9 in the first half shooting, with only 1 of 4 free throws falling. By the second half, the scoring team of Fisher along with junior Ryan Welage were the only two producing, both putting up ten points apiece. The rest of the team seemed overwhelmed and worn down, combining for only five points total in the final half. By the end of the night, the Spartans were out of gas and seemed to be left on the road.

The Bulldogs played relatively well except for a scoreless streak midway through the first half. Sam Bittner led the ‘Dogs in scoring during the first half with 9, all of which coming from three-point range. For Bittner however, that’s where the number would stay for the remainder of the night, as senior Jaron Hopkins took the baton in the second half, going 6 for 8 with sixteen points in the second half alone, bringing his total to a team high twenty for the game. It was the fourth time this season Hopkins led the ‘Dogs in scoring.

Overall the ‘Dogs looked to be the stronger team fundamentally, scoring a total of 12 second chance points compared to the Spartans 3. They also doubled up on the Spartans in fast break points scoring 8 compared to the Spartans 4. In a category that has yielded inconsistency throughout the season, the ‘Dogs put up a 71% free throw percentage compared to the Spartans sub-par 46%. But possibly the biggest factor in the ‘Dogs wearing the Spartans down was their play in the paint, in which they scored 32 points while the Spartans were only able to put up 20. By the second half of the game, the ‘Dogs had worn down the Spartans, and had proven to be the stronger team.

The ‘Dogs return home to host Colorado State this Saturday at the Save Mart Center. In their previous match-up with the Rams, the Bulldogs were able to pull out an overtime win 82-79 in Fort Collins. The Rams come into Fresno holding an 11-16 record going 4-10 in conference play. The ‘Dogs on the other hand look to ride the hot hand in search of their fourth straight win, with the intent of catching the stumbling Boise State Broncos who have lost two straight. The ‘Dogs are one and a half games behind the Broncos with five games remaining before the Conference Championship begins in March.