When Fresno State released its men’s basketball schedule way back when, a date on Sunday against Pacific Union appeared to be a perfect low-pressure way to get back into a promising season.
The Bulldogs would be done with final exams, returning from a week-long break over the Christmas holiday and still four days out from their Mountain West Conference opener. Pacific Union is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program in Angwin, in the Napa Valley, and competes in the California Pacific Conference against Cal Maritime, Antelope Valley, UC Merced, Benedictine-Mesa, La Sierra, Simpson and Embry-Riddle.
And while the Pioneers (4-3) hold their own against lower-division opponents, they have six losses in six exhibition games, including a 112-59 loss at San Jose State, a 95-57 loss at Weber State and a 103-59 loss at Concordia, an NCAA Division II program.
But Fresno State (8-4) isn’t looking at it as a spot to merely get in, get a win and get out as healthy as possible after it had more than a few problems in an 85-77 loss to Evansville last time out, playing sloppily in stretches at both ends of the floor.
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14 Fresno State turnovers against Evansville
“What it gets down to is you have to work, man,” coach Rodney Terry said. “You have to work every day. You have to be consistent every day and you have to compete.
“Evansville is a good team. I’m not taking anything away from those guys. But we had some lapses there offensively. We had some lapses defensively. You can’t do that against good teams.”
The Bulldogs will see many once conference play – they open at UNLV, then play New Mexico, Nevada and at Boise State – and need to right themselves as they had coming out of a rough loss at Cal Poly when hitting a season low 34.8 percent of their shots while allowing the Mustangs to hit 50 percent.
They played better in a loss at Arizona, then won back-to-back games against Pacific and Cal State Bakersfield, extending their best start since the 2006-07 season.
But the Bulldogs slipped against Evansville – they turned over the ball 10 times in the first half and 14 times in the game, which was part the Purple Aces’ doing and larger part Bulldogs, and shot the ball poorly in the second half. At the defensive end, Fresno State allowed Evansville to hit 55.6 percent of its shots in the second half, including 22 points in the paint on layups and dunks.
We had some lapses there offensively. We had some lapses defensively. You can’t do that against good teams.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
Fresno State went through a two-hour practice Saturday, the first steps in fixing what failed in the loss to Evansville. Pacific Union is an opportunity to hit reset before the start of conference play at UNLV, which was picked to finish fourth in a preseason media poll, one spot ahead of the Bulldogs.
“You learn from that,” Terry said. “But you just keep competing. Like I said the other day, a lot of the things that transpired in that game, you can fix them if you want to fix them and we’ve always prided ourselves in saying, ‘Hey, we have this we need to fix’ and we fix it. The only way I know how to do that is to do it in practice, so we came back and we tried to work on some of the things that we considered problems or things that we need to get better at.
“We have to come out and play (Sunday) and compete at a good level. We know defense is a big deal and we have to continue to try to get better on that end of the floor, and we have to take care of the basketball.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. PACIFIC UNION
- Sunday: 1 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 8-4, Pioneers 4-3 (but 0-6 in exhibitions)
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)