It was a tale of two halves for the Fresno State men’s basketball team, but once the defense got rolling, so did everything else.
The Bulldogs built momentum right before halftime, then finished off a 77-55 rout of Dominican in an exhibition in front of 4,464 Friday night at Save Mart Center.
The Penguins came out striking from long range, sinking 8 of 13 shots from beyond the three-point arc while leading by as many as seven. Christopher Schwartz-Edmisten led the way with 13 points, including three threes.
Coach Rodney Terry’s frustration was clear on the bench.
“Well, I said to our guys at halftime that (Dominican) played harder than we did in the first half and that’s hard for me to say because we’re a team that takes a lot of pride in playing extremely hard, practicing hard and coming out and competing at a very high level,” Terry said.
Fresno State, however, ended the half on a 14-5 run sparked by a strong putback in the post from sophomore center Terrell Carter II, who was fouled on the way up. He missed the free throw, but the fire was lit as Cezar Guerrero and Paul Watson followed with back-to-back threes to tie the score.
Watson and Carter added a pair of jumpers and the Bulldogs had a 35-33 halftime lead.
We want to be the best defensive team in the Mountain West.
Cezar Guerrero, Fresno State guard
Fresno State players returned for the second half more vocal, with junior forward Karachi Edo and Guerrero barking orders on defense.
“The difference was just the communication and us being involved on the defensive end,” Guerrero said. “Communication is a big part of what we want to do. We want to be the best defensive team in the Mountain West.”
Fresno State held the Penguins to 3-of-12 shooting through the first 9 minutes of the second half, bolted off on a 25-8 scoring run and pushed the lead to 19.
The intensity was visible when Carter dove for a loose ball and crashed into the advertising table, receiving cheers from the crowd.
Edo finished with a team-high 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He was 4 of 6 from the line. Three other Bulldogs reached double figures, with Marvelle Harris adding 12 on 5-of-10 shooting.
2 Fresno State’s halftime lead Friday
Junior transfers Torren Jones, Lionel Ellison III and Cullen Russo saw significant playing time in their first game action as Bulldogs.
Russo almost cashed in the first dunk of his Fresno State career, only to have the ball ricochet off the back of the rim.
The fresh faces impressed a hopeful Terry, whose team opens the regular season by hosting Pepperdine at 7 p.m. Nov. 13.
“I thought for a better part of the game, they ran the floor really well for us offensively,” he said. “They’ll be a group that will continue to get better as the year goes along.”