This is what it looks like for Jaron Hopkins, when healthy …
Wyoming: 16 points, four rebounds, six assists, three steals, one blocked shot.
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San Diego State: 20 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocked shots.
Also, there was an 80-62 win over the Cowboys on the road and a 79-61 victory over the Aztecs on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center.
Hopkins can fill up a stat sheet, though it is about more than health right now for the Bulldogs’ point guard, who missed four games in December after suffering two transverse process fractures in his back when taking a hard fall at the end of a drive in a victory over Bakersfield.
“It’s not just a health thing, it’s coming in with a killer mindset and trying to attack,” said Hopkins, who has hit 15 of his past 24 shots (62.5 percent) and has just three turnovers while playing a total of 64 minutes in the two games.
“I’ve been doing some of the things on the court in practice, so that’s a good start. I’m just coming in with the right mindset and it has been translating over to the games.”
The two do, to some degree, go together.
But the Bulldogs are a different team with Hopkins at 100 percent, body and mind.
“He has hit a really good reset button in terms of what this team really needs him to do,” coach Rodney Terry said. “He has a good basketball IQ in leading the team, playing with pace of play, sharing the basketball, sitting down and being a good defender like we think he’s capable of doing, and then just trusting his teammates.
“When he’s playing with energy and activity, he makes our team really good on both ends of the floor. He’s rebounding the basketball, diving on the floor for loose balls, hitting it ahead in transition, playing downhill. When he’s playing that way we’re pretty good.”
Hopkins is back to aggressively driving the ball, looking to score or find an open shooter in the half court and in transition, which is a key component to an offense that has hit better than 50 percent of its shots over the past three games, at Nevada, at Wyoming and against San Diego State.
Of his 15 baskets in the past two games, 10 have come on layups or dunks.
In the Bulldogs’ first five Mountain West games – Hopkins returned to the lineup in the conference opener against Nevada – it was much different.
Hopkins made 17 baskets, but only six were on drives.
That’s the picture of health, though production at the offensive end is not the emphasis.
“I’m trying to hone in on defense, really,” Hopkins said. “I’m able to bother some of the smaller guards in this league, because there are a lot of good guards in this league. I’m trying to get out there and contest all the shots, play with energy and activity. That’s my emphasis and the offense will come right after that.”
The Bulldogs do not play again until Valentine’s Day, a game at San Jose State.
The Spartans are struggling, 0-11 in conference play going into a Saturday game at Colorado State, but they have given the Bulldogs fits at the Event Center the past two years.
Fresno State went there last season off wins over Nevada and Wyoming and lost 69-62, and in 2016 went there off back-to-back wins and lost 65-53.
Then there is the break – not a boon for the Bulldogs in the past.
They beat UNLV with six days between games a game at Air Force was canceled due to the government shutdown, but that was only their sixth win in their past 15 games with more than five days between games.
“We’re going to still try to play,” Terry said. “We have enough guys to play a controlled scrimmage and our blue team all year long has been really good all year in practice. They’ll come in and push our guys hard.
“We’ll keep working hard, no different than when we had the Air Force game that we didn’t play. We have to continue to do what we do in terms of how hard we work in practice and we’ll have a game in there. We’ll play a controlled scrimmage.”
Nate Grimes had another productive stint off the bench, hitting seven of nine shots in scoring 15 points with six rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot in 24 minutes.
He had spent time with Terry at the end of practice on Monday working on a reverse pivot from the post to a jump shot, and four of his seven baskets were jumpers.
“I’m a lot more confident in my shot now that coach Terry believes in me,” he said. “He believes in me so I believe in it now.”
Grimes was joking – a little. Terry was sitting right next to him at the time.
It was a good exchange, but clearly Grimes is more comfortable and carving out more of a role with his play the past month, which started with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in 24 minutes in a 77-73 victory at San Diego State.
“I think he is really believing in himself,” Terry said. “This year has been a huge learning curve for him in terms of reaching his potential and playing with that motor. It is a matter of him getting on the floor and learning valuable experience from being on the floor.
“Nate has a good skill set. The more you are on the floor, the more you will expand that skill set and have the opportunity to improve your game. We have seen that over the course of the season with him. I think his work ethic has been really good, his attitude has been great and good things have happened for him.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Event Center, San Jose
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM ESPN 940)
- Records: Bulldogs 17-8, 7-5 Mountain West; Spartans 3-19, 0-11
- Of note: The Spartans have dropped 11 games in a row, last winning on Dec. 21 at Santa Clara, but have been in some games on the home floor during conference play. San Jose State lost 59-52 to Colorado State, 82-76 in overtime to UNLV, 78-71 to Air Force, 90-86 in overtime to Wyoming and 71-68 to New Mexico. The Spartans do not have a mid-week game, playing next at Colorado State on Saturday. Ryan Welage, a 6-foot-9 forward, is leading San Jose State in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game. The Spartans do not have another player scoring 10 points per game, and are ranked last in the Mountain West and 327th in the nation in scoring at 66.0 points per game.