Fresno would have a much better overall record if it got to play Nevada more than twice.
The Bulldogs continued to vex Nevada on Saturday afternoon, handing the Wolf Pack its first home loss of the season, 81-76.
The win was Fresno’s first conference road win of the season, already with losses at non-contenders San Jose State and Air Force.
Nevada (16-4, 5-2) dropped into a tie with Boise State for first place in the Mountain West with its second defeat of the season to the Bulldogs (13-7, 5-3). Nevada lost 77-76 at Fresno on New Year’s Eve. Nevada is 1-5 against Fresno State the last three seasons.
In the loss to the Bulldogs three weeks ago, interior play was huge problem. Nevada was outscored 50-16 in the paint. Those troubles again arose on Saturday afternoon in front of 10,236 at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack was outscored 42-24 in the paint and was outrebounded 35-22. Nobody in a Nevada uniform finished with more than three rebounds.
Nevada is statistically the best rebounding team in the conference, but is suddenly struggling on the glass. Nevada was outrebounded by 10 in Wednesday’s win over Air Force.
Nevada was unable to get the massive home crowd into the game early, sluggishly falling into a deep 31-14 hole. It was never able to make up the difference, never leading.
The Wolf Pack rallied in the second half, getting within two on eight difference occasions and trailing by just a point three times. It never managed to string together enough stops, however, to get over the hump.
Seemingly myriad whistles sent Fresno to the free throw line down the stretch, quelling Nevada’s numerous rally attempts. The Bulldogs finished 20-of-25 at the free throw line. Nevada hit 14-of-19 freebies.
Marcus Marshall led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
Depth issues were once again apparent for the home squad, which was outscored 29-2 on the bench.
Nevada won’t have long to hang its head over the defeat. It goes to Boise State on Wednesday night with first place on the line and NCAA Tournament at-large aspirations dwindling.