The first matchup against Colorado State, at Moby Arena where the Rams had won 11 of 12 games and are 2 of 2 since, did not go well for Fresno State.
The Bulldogs got tossed around, giving up 38 points in the paint and another 11 at the free-throw line in an 80-57 loss, their worst of the season. They were outrebounded by 20, gave up 15 offensive rebounds and 22 second-chance points.
“They just manhandled us,” Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said.
In trying to turn that around, the addition of forward Alex Davis comes with no guarantees. But it does at least change the dynamic for the Bulldogs, who on Wednesday night at Save Mart Center will try to avenge that road loss and move up or maintain position in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball race.
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The 6-9 Davis did not play in the first meeting — it was the first of two games that he missed when suspended for actions detrimental to the team.
But his length and experience can be useful at both ends of the court against the Rams and forward J.J Avila, who is one of the best all-around players in the league, ranking fifth in Mountain West games in scoring and rebounding, and third in offensive rebounds and steals.
Davis is coming in off one of his most productive games of the season, playing through early foul trouble to score seven points and grab two offensive rebounds in the final 10 minutes as the Bulldogs worked their way past Boise State in a victory that put them in a tie with Utah State in fifth place in the Mountain West and in line for a first-day bye at the conference tournament.
“I think it changes the team a lot,” said Davis, the Bulldogs’ only senior. “I feel like when I’m in the rotation, we play unbelievably on defense. I know we’re going to be ready to step up to the challenge. It’s going to be a team effort stopping Avila.”
In the first meeting, with Davis back in Fresno, the Bulldogs inserted sophomore Karachi Edo into the starting lineup and he has remained there the past four games. But they were thin — Braeden Anderson had played in only three of the Bulldogs’ first eight conference games, a total of 20 minutes, but was on the floor for 15 in that game; freshman Terrell Carter II, who had not played since the conference opener at New Mexico, came off the bench and logged 10 minutes.
While the numbers are the same (Anderson has since left the team to focus on graduating this spring and gaining acceptance to law school), the Bulldogs are deeper with Davis from an experience standpoint.
But even with that, much more is needed after the Bulldogs fell well short the first time. Fresno State had not been minus-20 in rebounding margin since last season Florida was a plus-23 (47-24) in a 66-49 victory agaisnt the Bulldogs at the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in December.
“This is a toughness game,” Terry said. “Colorado State is a hard-nosed team. They shoot a lot of 3s and make a lot of 3s, but they’re a team that attacks the glass on a regular basis. All of their guys can come in there and rebound the basketball, and they play with a nastiness about themselves. They really do. They’re a tough-minded team and if you don’t match their physicality or their toughness, you’re going to have a tough time competing with them.
“I like to think we’re better than we were the last time we played them in terms of team rebounding. We still have a ways to go, but there has been an emphasis placed on it and I think our guys have tried to better job of it. We’re going to be playing one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country. These guys, they rebound the basketball. Avila and (Tiel) Daniels and (Daniel) Bejarano, they’re not one-effort block-out guys — they’re two- and three-effort block-out guys. They’re going to continue to get after it, and you have to be ready to match that.”