Off to its best start in 12 seasons, the Fresno State men’s basketball team looks to run its winning streak to eight against a formidable opponent Saturday afternoon at the Save Mart Center.
Utah Valley State might not be a marquee name, but the Wolverines of the Western Athletic Conference boast a 10-4 record and 6-foot, 9-inch graduate student forward Connor MacDougall.
“This is probably the best challenge coming in. Cal was a good challenge and Weber State was on a roll when they came in, but Utah Valley is a really good team at the top of the WAC,” said Bulldogs Coach Justin Hutson.
Bulldogs Sizzle in Route of UT-Martin
The Bulldogs shot 54.5% from the field and 41.2% from behind the 3-point arc in their 93-53 victory over UT-Martin on Dec. 22 at the Save Mart Center.
“It has been far from seamless but I like where we are at because the guys are coming in with a good attitude and good effort and they are trying to get better.” — Fresno State coach Justin Hutson
Braxton Huggins led a balanced Fresno State offense with 20 points highlighted by six 3-pointers. New Williams added 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Bulldogs (9-2), and Nate Grimes scored 14 points with six rebounds and four steals.
Reflecting the runaway final margin against the 5-5 Skyhawks, freshman guard Aguir Agau contributed 13 points and five rebounds. and Noah Blackwell had 12 points and eight assists for Fresno State.
Hutson Likes His Team’s Attitude, Effort
Talking about his team’s chemistry, first-year coach Hutson said:
“We have a good group of young men and that is the bottom line. It has been tough because a lot of these guys haven’t been on the floor before so for them to see what I am about and me to understand what they are about, is a partnership.
“We are having a lot of fun. Our offense is stemming from our defense. Coach Hutson focuses on playing hard on the defensive end and making sure we get the stops. That is what drives our offense and keeps us in the high scoring numbers during the game.” — Fresno State guard New Williams
“I am steering the ship and putting the rules out, but it is a partnership and we are doing this together. It has been far from seamless but I like where we are at because the guys are coming in with a good attitude and good effort and they are trying to get better.”
For Bulldogs, It Starts With Defense
Williams, a junior guard, said that defense is the foundation of the Bulldogs’ winning streak.
“We are having a lot of fun. Our offense is stemming from our defense,” Williams said. “Coach Hutson focuses on playing hard on the defensive end and making sure we get the stops. That is what drives our offense and keeps us in the high scoring numbers during the game.”
Mountain West Honors Blackwell
Blackwell, a junior guard, was named the Mountain West’s Player of the Week on Monday.
He averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds with a 55.6 percent field goal percentage and a 5.7 assist-to-turnover ratio (17-3) while leading the ‘Dogs to a 2-0 week in beating California 95-73 and UT-Martin.
Blackwell is the Bulldogs’ primary point guard since preseason All-MW guard Deshon Taylor suffered an injury in practice Dec. 7.
MacDougall Powers Utah Valley State
Utah Valley State’s MacDougall was named WAC Player of the Week for his performances in two victories last week — missing just one shot from the field.
MacDougall scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in an 88-77 win over Idaho State. He had 13 points with six rebounds and a career-high four assists in an 85-79 win over Sam Houston State. In the two games, he made 17 of 18 shots from the field and converted 7 of 10 free throws.
Best Start for Bulldogs Since 2006-07
The last time Fresno State started a season this well was 2006-07 when it bolted to a 13-2 record.