The pieces had been floating out there through the first nine games, some but not all of them coming together at different points in different games.
But not at the same time and never for a full 40 minutes.
But Fresno State came as close as possible to having all that it wanted right where it wanted it Saturday in a non-conference matchup against Pacific, the Bulldogs’ men’s basketball team winning big at both ends of the floor in what was a solid 71-52 victory at Save Mart Center.
“I’d definitely say probably one of the more complete games that we’ve played,” coach Rodney Terry said after the Bulldogs improved to 7-3 this season, their best start since opening 9-1 in 2006-07.
“I thought our guys played really hard defensively. I thought they played really hard offensively. I thought they really did what we practice and did it at a high level.”
Facing zone, which the Bulldogs had failed to attack with much proficiency in a loss at Cal Poly, the Bulldogs played with good pace start to finish, got the ball into the paint and didn’t settle out on the perimeter.
They hit 48.2 percent of their shots and were at 52.1 percent through the under-8-minute timeout – the last time they saw as much zone, in that loss at Cal Poly, they hit a season-low 34.8 percent. They had 17 assists on 27 makes and showed off depth that they haven’t had in past seasons with six players scoring eight or more points – led by Paul Watson with 15, Karachi Edo with 14 and Torren Jones with 11.
Marvelle Harris, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season, had eight points with five rebounds and four assists. Point guards Cezar Guerrero and Lionel Ellison kept the offense in attack mode; Ellison had a season-high five assists. That two of the three leading scorers are rooted in the lane was significant. As they continued to work against the Tigers’ zone, the Bulldogs also had nine offensive rebounds, just missing double digits for the ninth time in 10 games. Last season, Fresno State had 10 or more offensive rebounds seven times in 32 games, and two of those came in wins against lower-division teams.
“We didn’t settle,” Terry said. “I thought our guys really played within themselves. They were doing a really good job of attacking on our terms.”
At the other end, the Bulldogs took away all credible threats, leaving the Tigers without much.
Alec Kobre, who scored 24 points on 14 shots in 27 minutes last time out in a loss to UC Irvine, got off only five shots and scored five points in 26 minutes against the Bulldogs. Terry, at times, deployed the longer 6-foot-7 Watson on the 6-2 guard. And when forward Ilias Theodorou took a few bites out of the Bulldogs, scoring 10 of Pacific’s final 12 points in the first half, they were able to take him out of the game, as well, with their bigs doing a better job extending out. Theodorou was 4 of 4 at the half, including 2 of 2 on three-pointers, and finished 4 of 6 with 10 points.
Paul did a great job of not letting him get separation, because that kid, he came in and had nine attempts (at the three-point line) and made four of them. They need him to make shots, but he didn’t get his first make until it was five minutes into the second half.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry on Paul Watson’s defense on Ilias Theodorou of UOP
Pacific was playing without coach Ron Verlin and assistant Dwight Young, who are on paid suspension while Pacific and the NCAA work a joint investigation into academic misconduct in the athletics department. But given what was happening on the floor, that didn’t have much impact.
The Bulldogs held Pacific 19.3 points under its season average. The Tigers hit only 18 of 54 shots (33.3 percent) while turning over the basketball 20 times. Fresno State last forced 20 turnovers in a 68-51 victory Feb. 5, 2014, at Air Force.
“This is a pretty good shooting team between the perimeter players and the post players – their guys can all shoot,” Terry said. “We knew we had to come in here with really good shooter defense, and I thought our guys did a really good job.”
Put it all together, and victory came fairly easily. The Bulldogs had more difficulty getting past a NAIA team in The Master’s College on Dec. 3, an 84-72 victory.
“I feel like our team, we attacked the paint, and we played aggressive,” Edo said. “We tried to stay in front of the ball. We still need to be better, but I feel we played hard as a team.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 7-3, Roadrunners 5-3 (host Dartmouth on Monday)