Fresno State has nine days before it opens its basketball season and between then and now it has a closed scrimmage at UCLA and, judging from its debut in an exhibition on Tuesday against Cal State San Bernardino, a few high-intensity practices ahead.
The Bulldogs were without senior forwards Karachi Edo and Cullen Russo – Edo is ineligible for the fall semester and Russo was out due to an administrative issue – but they still should not have been in very deep against the Division II Coyotes.
They were, though, start to almost finish before pulling away at the free throw line in the final five minutes to secure a 76-69 victory at the Save Mart Center.
It’s a great learning tool for us. (Wednesday) we’ll get a chance to really watch this tape and we’ll get a chance to see some things. When we say, ‘Hey, you can’t close out with your hands down on any guys,’ guys will really understand my close out with high hands is pretty important. Shooter defense is really big.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
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The Bulldogs’ effort at the defensive end had a bit to do with that, particularly in the first half when Cal State San Bernardino hit 54.2 percent of its shots including 57.1 percent at the 3-point line.
“This was really good for us,” said coach Rodney Terry, who is aiming this season for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. “I came in at the half and said we have a team that’s shooting 57 percent from three and they were shooting 54 percent on field goals and I said this is really good for us because it’s going to really challenge us to sit down and have to get some things done defensively.
“We always challenge ourselves to try to be below the 40s – winning basketball defensively, you have to hold teams down in that area there and that’s kind of the benchmark for what we look for, but it was way too high.”
Cal State San Bernardino got 18 first-half points and 29 in the game from Khleem Perkins and not only were in it but led until the Bulldogs’ Jaron Hopkins tied the score at 57 on a free throw with 7:34 remaining in the game.
Bryson Williams, the freshman from Roosevelt High, started with Karachi Edo and Cullen Russo out. Williams played 16 minutes, scoring four points with four rebounds.
Fresno State, which was led by Paul Watson with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists and Hopkins with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, pushed its lead to as many as seven points five times down the stretch but never did get away.
Their largest lead in the second half was seven.
“This team will grow,” said Terry, who went nine deep including freshmen Bryson Williams and Johnny McWilliams and redshirt freshman Nate Grimes.
“We’ll continue to grow each and every day. It’s a great learning tool for us. (Wednesday) we’ll get a chance to really watch this tape and we’ll get a chance to see some things. When we say, ‘Hey, you can’t close out with your hands down on any guys,’ guys will really understand my close out with high hands is pretty important. Shooter defense is really big.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE: TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO
- Friday, Nov. 11: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center (15,596)
- Records: Bulldogs 0-0, Roadrunners 0-0
- Online/radio: MWN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)