Fresno State weathered a poor-shooting second half, using its size, its defense and a significant edge at the free throw line in moving to 2-0 with an 80-72 victory over Lamar on Monday at the Save Mart Center, the first time the Bulldogs have started a season with two wins since the 2009-’10 season.
Forward Torren Jones led the Bulldogs with 19 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double in as many games in a Fresno State uniform. Cullen Russo also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, Marvelle Harris had 19 points and Karachi Edo added 10 points.
Jones, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds in his Fresno State debut, a victory over Pepperdine, hit six of his first seven shots, taking advantage of his size against the Lamar bigs. He is the first Fresno State player with a double-double in back-to-back games since March, 2011, when Greg Smith had 16 points and 16 rebounds in a victory over Hawaii in the final game of the regular season and then 14 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Nevada at the WAC Tournament.
“It feels good. I’m scoring, so I’m doing something right,” Jones said. “They weren’t the prettiest makes, but they got me in my flow and I got some points on the board.”
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Fresno State hit only 35.7 percent of its shots (25 of 70) including 31.3 percent in the second half (10 of 32), but it made more free throws in the game than Lamar attempted, going 28 of 41 from the line while the Cardinals were 16 of 27.
No Booze – The Bulldogs had an inkling coming in who they would have to stop or at least slow down to beat the Cardinals and Kevin Booze made it clear in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Lamar point guard hit five of his first six shots, including three from the 3-point line, and had Coach Rodney Terry ready to make a switch with his point guards before the first media timeout, going to Lionel Ellison in place of Cezar Guerrero. But from that point, the Bulldogs did a solid job limiting Booze. He had to go to the bench with 7:27 remaining in the first half after picking up a second foul, but they continued to hold him in check in the second half.
Booze over the last 27-plus minutes got only two shots and to the free throw line seven times, one of those fouls coming when the Cardinals were inbounding the basketball and another when in transition.
Guerrero did a much better job at the start of the second half and he and Ellison kept the Lamar point guard fairly well in check the rest of the way. Booze had 15 points at halftime, and finished with 20.
“We did a much better job in the second half trying to contain him,” Terry said. “He got off to a great start. He hit his first couple of shots and anytime you let a guy get to feeling comfortable and feeling good about what he’s doing, we let him do that early, then you’re going to have your hands full.
“We had to put the fire out. I thought Cezar came out and set the tone in the second half and did a much better job guarding him. Lionel came in and picked up the baton and also did a good job.”
30 percent solution – Fresno State hit just 35.7 percent of its shots (25 of 70), winning a second game in a row when hitting less than 40 percent of its shots.
Last season, the Bulldogs were 3-10 when under that 40 percent mark.
The shooting from the 3-point line … not good.
Fresno State was 2 of 11 against the Cardinals after going 2 of 17 in an opening victory over Pepperdine, through two games they have hit 14.3 percent of their shots from three.
Lost in transition – The Cardinals, like Pepperdine in the opener, pushed the basketball hard when opportunities presented themselves and sometimes when they didn’t.
They had 15 fast-break points, a bit too many, but Terry was happy for the challenge.
“We know that’s a part of your defense that you have to continue to build. Early on, it’s always really hard,” he said. “We’ve played two teams with point guards that can go coast to coast. A lot of times, one of the hardest things for your team to get from a defensive standpoint is transition defense. We’re pretty good when we’re able to get back and get our defense set, but we’ve been really challenged in the first two games, which has been great for us because you can’t simulate this in practice.
“You can work on it, but it’s not the same, where a team gets it and they’re coming full steam. (Lamar) did that. They did that on made baskets, they did it on free throw break sets, so it was good for us.”
Et cetera – The Bulldogs play San Francisco on Thursday at the Save Mart Center. They have not started a season 3-0 since the 2006-’07 season when opening 7-0.
▪ Russo was mired in foul trouble in the opener against Pepperdine, but was on the floor for 26 minutes against Lamar. He hit only 1 of 7 shots, but was 8 of 12 at the free throw line. “I’m just trying to help my team win any way possible, whether it’s play defense, get rebounds, pick teammates up, be an energy guy,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help win, that’s all that matters.”
▪ Fresno State forced Lamar into 16 turnovers, after Pepperdine had 18.
▪ Fresno State was running a social media promotion, giving away a free ticket to anyone showing they follow Fresno State athletics. They gave away 230 free tickets. Attendance at the game was 4,799.
Fresno State women’s basketball – The Bulldogs play Tuesday night against Fresno Pacific in an exhibition game at the Save Mart Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Fresno State opened the season with an 86-68 loss Friday at UC Riverside. Fresno Pacific is coming off two season-opening losses in a weekend doubleheader at Humboldt State, losing 97-51 to Western Washington on Friday and 89-43 to Seattle Pacific on Saturday.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada