Bottom line, they lost the basketball game. The Fresno State Bulldogs went to San Diego State and competed as hard and as well as they had all season, they rebounded and defended and left some bumps and bruises in the guys in the home uniforms. But, they lost.
Tyler Johnson, one of two seniors on an otherwise young and inexperienced team, cautioned that the Bulldogs can lose more than a game if they don't have some carry over on Saturday at the Save Mart Center against New Mexico, the preseason pick to win the Mountain West Conference.
"It's a waste if you lose and you don't improve on anything and you're still making the same mistakes that cost you other ball games," Johnson said. "We're not into moral victories or anything like that, but we didn't take a step back as far as physical play, as far as rebounding. I thought we made steps in that regard. But in order for us to take that next step, we have to finish it."
The Bulldogs (8-10, 1-4 Mountain West) didn't against the Aztecs, but there is momentum in the loss.
Fresno State was a minus-11.7 in rebounding margin in their Mountain West games but outrebounded San Diego State 38-37. The Aztecs hit a season-low 33.3% of their shots (18 of 54), their worst effort in San Diego since hitting only 27% (17 of 63) against Syracuse in a game played outdoors on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Midway, docked in the harbor to open last season, and worst at Viejas Arena since hitting 31.3% (15 of 48) in a victory over Boise State in 2011-'12.
But the Bulldogs have to continue to build on it where they haven't before.
"We have a lot of young guys on the team -- it's never an excuse -- but sometimes they have to see it," Johnson said. "They have to be able to witness it first hand to understand that there's not a huge gap between how good our talent level is to the other teams in this league.
"We can compete talent-wise with some of the best teams in the league, but in order to get over that hump and make those plays you have to be in games like this and for them to see that ... we're right there. You go up to (Colorado State) and you don't play hard, anybody is going to beat you if you don't play hard. It's plain and simple: We didn't make nearly enough plays up there.
"But then we come (to San Diego State), against a better team, against a more physical team, and with the performance of some of our bigs, Karachi (Edo), Tanner (Giddings), Alex (Davis), even Marvelle (Harris) had to go in there at the four, they battled. They held their block outs, were pushing guys, shoving guys out of bounds, everything you need to do to give yourself a chance to win. Sometimes you just have to see it in order to take that next step."
New Mexico, which is 12-4 overall and 3-1 in conference play after a 76-73 loss to UNLV, will test the Bulldogs' newfound hardiness that was on display at San Diego State.
The Lobos are big inside, with 7-foot center Alex Kirk and 6-9 forward Cameron Bairstow, who is second in the Mountain West in scoring at 20.4 points per game.
New Mexico is third in the Mountain West in rebounding margin at plus-6.0, is fourth with an average of 12.4 offensive rebounds a game, and in conference play has scored 27 points per game in the paint -- an area the Bulldogs have had difficulty defending with their lack of size inside.
"With a young team, we're growing up every day," Terry said. "Every day is a growing process for us. We've got two freshmen out there, and it's a high-level game. We were playing a top-10 team in the country, and those guys are still learning the pace of the game, how quick actions are going to happen in games, and they're going to be better for it in the future. I think all of our guys are growing.
"If we can bottle this up and have some carry over, we're going to be right where we want to be."
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