Fresno State forward Karachi Edo has taken positive steps toward playing Thursday in a quarterfinal at the Mountain West Tournament against New Mexico, a matchup between the No. 4 seed Bulldogs and No. 5 Lobos.
“(Tuesday) he did a lot of things with the training staff and (Wednesday) we wanted to give him a look in there with the guys a little bit,” coach Rodney Terry said after the Bulldogs practiced at a local YMCA.
“He has been out for a while. He is farther along than we thought he would be at this point, but we still can’t really say how much or if he will play. He is moving better, but he obviously has some effects of not playing over the past few weeks.”
A victory over New Mexico in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament would be the Bulldogs’ 20th this season. Fresno State in its history has had 20 seasons in which it has won 20 or more games.
The 6-foot-6 senior has been out since suffering a right ankle injury in the third of four overtimes in a Feb. 8 loss at Wyoming.
But even if on the floor for brief spurts, Edo could be an important piece for the Bulldogs, the defending tournament champion. He has played in 14 games this season – Edo sat out the fall semester after falling short of NCAA continuing eligibility standards – and is averaging a team-high 6.4 rebounds. Edo also is leading the Bulldogs with 22 blocked shots, one more than Paul Watson and Terrell Carter II, who have played in all 30 of the Bulldogs’ games.
“It doesn’t come back overnight and any time you have an injury to an area that he had, it’s an area that you’re constantly putting pressure on all the time,” Terry said.
“It’s not something that you’re just going to be able to say, ‘Hey, magic wand, he’s ready to go right now, full tilt, for an extended period of time.’ He is farther along than we thought he would be – we didn’t think he would be in this position right now. But our training staff has done a really good job with him and he has worked hard at trying to get back, so we’ll see where it goes.”
About those foul shots – Free throws could play a significant role in the quarterfinal matchup against New Mexico and much of the focus is on the Lobos, who get 25.6 percent of their points from the foul line, tied for the second highest percentage in the nation.
We have shooters in the corners in a lot of our offenses so it frees up some lanes for me and also for Deshon and Paul and other drivers we have on our team. Defenses have to switch their defense and have strategies for things like that, too, because we have shooters and drivers.
Fresno State point guard Jaron Hopkins
And, while it might be a surprise because there are four other MW teams in the top 60 with Colorado State 27th, UNLV 42nd, Boise State 53rd and Wyoming 58th, the team that led the conference in free throw attempts in MW play is ... Fresno State.
The Bulldogs attempted 442 foul shots in the 18 games, 24.6 per game. They didn’t take full advantage, hitting only 69.7 percent and ranking ninth in the league.
But they are there, spinning off the ability of Deshon Taylor, Jaron Hopkins and Paul Watson to drive the ball and make plays in the paint.
It has been a big part of their offense, particularly down the stretch.
“It’s just like Elijah Brown,” Terry said. “Any time you can get to the foul line it helps your offense because now you’re scoring points without time coming off the clock, without having to run an action to get a guy a shot. He’s at the free throw line – you can’t guard that. That’s why we say in this game it’s really important for us to play without fouling, because this team shoots a lot of free throws and they shoot them well.”
Hopkins finish – Hopkins has been much better finishing at the rim than he was early in the season, scoring 54 of his 76 baskets over the past 12 games on lay ups and dunks.
In the Bulldogs’ five-game winning streak Deshon Taylor (12 of 19) and Jahmel Taylor (11 of 22) have combined to hit 23 of 41 shots from the 3-point line, 56.1 percent.
“At the start of each game I see how guys are guarding me and I attack accordingly,” he said. “It’s basically using my strengths to my advantage. That’s what it is. It’s just going out there and playing as confidently as possible.
“I know what I’m capable of. I can see certain plays ahead of time. I know coach has a lot of confidence in me and that is translating a little bit.”
Et cetera – The Mountain West quarterfinal against New Mexico will be the 200th game for Terry at Fresno State. He is 104-95 and a victory over the Lobos would give the Bulldogs’ their third 20-win season in the past four seasons.
Before Terry, Fresno State had two 20-win seasons in 10 years.
▪ Bulldogs’ guard Jahmel Taylor is fourth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, knocking down 75 of 164 shots (45.8 percent).
Taylor is 4 of 8 against New Mexico this season, going 3 of 6 in the Bulldogs loss at The Pit and 1 of 2 in their victory at the Save Mart Center.
▪ Deshon Taylor said this about that three-game losing streak to San Diego State and at Wyoming and Colorado State that spurred the Bulldogs’ defense: “We saw (on tape) that it was our defense. That’s why we lost. Rebounding, as well. But we watched a lot of film and defensively it was awful. We felt like if we played better defense and we could stop teams, we could get out in transition and that would help our offense.
“It was plenty bad. It wasn’t just bad, it was we weren’t playing with enough energy so we would be late on screens or we wouldn’t help a teammate out so he would give up easy shots or easy looks.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada