Fresno State extended its winning streak to six games on Saturday, beating Cal Poly 83-63 at the Mott Athletics Center.
The winning run matches the second-longest under coach Rodney Terry – the Bulldogs won nine in a row two seasons ago in reaching the NCAA Tournament, the first six to end the regular season and then three in winning the Mountain West Tournament.
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This one should go at least one more game with a game Wednesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the Save Mart Center.
The Golden Lions are 0-10 after a loss Saturday at Oregon State, which is part of it. The other is the Bulldogs, who during their winning streak have scored 80 or more points four times.
They have shooters. They have drivers. They also have a post presence. The Bulldogs always have, to some degree. But this might be the best of all three ever under Terry and now that they are playing inside out and getting easy baskets or to the foul line driving the ball, the offense is taking off.
Over the six-game winning streak, Fresno State has hit 50.1 percent of its shots in averaging 83.5 points in wins over George Mason, Montana State, Weber State, Long Beach State, Bakersfield and Cal Poly.
Fresno State is averaging 81.8 points per game, third in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs are the only team in the conference ranked in the top four in scoring offense and in scoring defense (fourth, 67.9 ppg).
Taking a peek inside that production, the Bulldogs have scored 501 points in that stretch with 242 coming in the paint (48.3 percent) and 132 from the line (26.3 percent). That’s 74.7 percent of their points coming within a few feet of the basket or from the line. That’s tough to beat.
Fresno State also has an offensive rating better than 100.0 in all six games, the longest streak against Division I opponents since a 21-18 season in 2013-14.
“It makes us tough to guard because we’ve got shooters on the outside, we have a lot of guys that can get to the paint,” forward Ray Bowles Jr. said. “That’s when we’re at our best, inside, and it has been tough for teams to guard us inside right now.
“We just have to keep going with what’s going good for us and if we continue to do that we’re going to have a great season.”
In the game that spurred this run, a 54-52 loss to Evansville in Mexico at the Cancun Challenge, the Bulldogs scored 26 points in the paint but got to the line only 14 times, a season low. It didn’t help that they only made 5 of 14 there, in a 2-point loss.
The points from the line have been critical.
In the first four games, they scored only 39 of 317 points on free throws, 12.3 percent.
They’re also shooting 10 more foul shots per game than they were, 28.0 to 18.0.
“And we’re shooting them better,” Terry said. “I think guys are really trying to concentrate on the details this month, getting better in all the areas that we need to get better with.”
Point guard Jaron Hopkins did not make the trip to Cal Poly, two-plus hours down and back on a bus not the best thing for anyone with a back injury.
Terry said it was too soon to point to a game for a potential return, be it a Dec. 16 game against Oregon or the Dec. 27 Mountain West opener against Nevada.
“It’s going to be a touch-and-go deal with him,” Terry said. “It’s not something where he’s going to be able to come right back out at the moment.
“We’re going to make sure he’s fully recovered before we put him back out there because he’s a guy that plays above the rim and at the rim all the time. The last thing we want to do is put him out there before he’s ready.”
With Hopkins and Johnny McWilliams (ankle) out, the Bulldogs played only seven deep at Cal Poly. Sam Bittner played 38 minutes, Deshon Taylor played 37 and Bowles and Jahmel Taylor played 32 each.
Senior Terrell Carter II is a big part of that inside presence at the offensive end – the Bulldogs have yet to match up against a team that has any answers for him in the post. In the victory over the Mustangs, he hit all seven of his shots in scoring 16 points and also had three rebounds, one assist and one block.
He also played 23 minutes and has now logged 20 or more in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.
In those three games, Carter has hit 16 of 20 shots and is 10 of 12 at the line.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF AT FRESNO STATE
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (940 ESPN),
- Records: Bulldogs 8-2, Golden Lions 0-10
- Of note: The Golden Lions remained winless with an 85-58 loss at Oregon State on Saturday, not the first lopsided loss they have absorbed. They also fell 72-37 at Southern Methodist and 81-58 to Canisius. … Against the Beavers, Arkansas-Pine Bluff hit 45.7 percent of its shots, but turned over the ball 19 times. Senior forward Travon Harper led the Golden Lions with 20 points, hitting 8 of 9 shots, and had 10 rebounds.