The numbers are where they should be for a team that is 5-0, which Fresno State is for the first time in 10 mostly losing and somewhat laborious seasons. On offense they are up from a year ago, on defense they are down. Effective field goal percentage. Points per possessions. Rebounding percentage. The Bulldogs are trending in the right direction, that fifth win coming much deeper into the season than in some of those years, in Game 13, in Game 11, in Game 10.
But they will have more of an idea if they can add up correctly once into the Mountain West Conference when they play at No. 21 Oregon on Monday in what will be their first credible test of the season.
“We just have to be ready for a big fight,” said point guard Cezar Guerrero, who over the past three games has hit 17 of 29 shots (58.6 percent) and is averaging 19.0 points.
The Ducks also are 5-0, with victories that are a tad more noteworthy than wins over Lamar or Delaware State. Oregon has beaten Baylor and it has a win over Valparaiso, which beat a Pac-12 team in Oregon State on the road. They are long and athletic and leading the Pac-12 in scoring defense and scoring margin, that a large plus-16.4. The Ducks’ rebounding numbers are down a bit, and that is where coach Rodney Terry is perhaps most concerned going into this matchup.
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They rebound the ball at another level. They go to the glass extremely hard. They’ll be the best we’ve seen to this point.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry on No. 21 Oregon
“They rebound the ball at another level,” Terry said. “When that shot goes up we’re going to have to be physical with our block outs. We know they really rebound the ball big time. That’s probably the biggest thing going into the game. They go to the glass extremely hard. They’ll be the best we’ve seen to this point. At every position they go to the glass pretty hard. It will be a premium on us to have physical block outs at all five spots to give ourselves a chance.”
Fresno State will have its full complement of players to throw at the Ducks, with guard Julien Lewis back with the team and on the trip after missing the victory over Delaware State while dealing with some personal issues. And the team has rebounded well in its five victories, led by forward Torren Jones, who has three double-doubles in five games and is averaging 10.0 rebounds per game.
The Bulldogs have out-rebounded all five of their opponents (not counting team rebounds) and are a plus-7.6 in rebound margin. But they have not yet faced a team that gets after the basketball with the same tenacity, and the step up has not always been kind. They are 2-9 against Pac-12 teams under Terry, losing six in a row.
Fresno State beat Pepperdine (69-66), Lamar (80-72), San Francisco (78-71), Rice (82-65) and Delaware State (80-59) for its best start since 2006.
“They’re athletic. They can shoot the basketball,” Terry said. “I know a couple of their players really well. Dillon Brooks is a good young player from Canada who played well for them a year ago. (Dwayne) Benjamin shoots the ball real well for them. Elgjin Cook seems like he has been there forever – he’s a senior. He’s a good player. There’s a young player, (Tyler) Dorsey, who is really shooting the ball well as a freshman. They are an extremely talented ball club. Their big kid (Chris Boucher) came in the other night and blocked nine shots, so they have a guy that can protect the rim.
“They’re one of the better teams in the Pac-12. I’d say top three, top two in the league. We have our work cut out for us against an extremely talented ball club. They do a great job spreading the floor and obviously in any game you’re going to have to get back with transition defense, but a big part of the game is going to be keeping them off the glass.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Battle of unbeatens
Fresno State (5-0) at Oregon (5-0)
▪ Vitals: 5 p.m. Monday at Matthew Knight Arena
▪ TV: PAC12
▪ Radio: KFIG (AM 940)