There are 20 wins in the books with two games to go, and that’s no small thing for a men’s basketball program that was not on solid footing not long ago. Fresno State didn’t have a winning season for four years before coach Rodney Terry arrived, and for two more after he started a substantial rebuild.
Marvelle Harris has been there just about the whole way. He’s the only remaining member of the first class of high school recruits that Terry signed. Cezar Guerrero arrived that year as well, transferring from Oklahoma State. Julien Lewis, the Bulldogs’ third senior, signed up the following year, transferring from Texas.
As measuring sticks go, Harris is a good one, going from freshman to a top candidate to be player of the year in the Mountain West. This season, he’s averaging 20.4 points and 2.2 steals and has conference bests of 4.6 assists per game and a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The 20 wins in the regular season also is a first since 2006-07.
These guys are really the building blocks of a foundation of what we tried to build when we got here.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry, on seniors Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis
So there is emotion attached to the Bulldogs’ final home game and Senior Night on Wednesday against Colorado State at Save Mart Center. Terry chuckled when asked if he’d be crying during the pregame ceremony for his three seniors, Harris, Guerrero and Lewis.
“You never know, you get emotional and stuff,” he joked before turning serious. “These guys, they’ve put it in the books for us and really tried to do it right, you know?
“It’s really symbolic. ... These guys are really the building blocks of a foundation of what we tried to build when we got here. They’ve really tried to help us establish a good culture and how hard you need to play, how hard you have to work every single day. I’m proud that all three of those guys are going to have a chance to graduate and get a degree from here as well. Those are all positive things when you’re trying to build the program.”
With the 20 wins, Senior Night and a slew of promotions (a Black Out and NFL Night along with one student guaranteed to win a $2,500 tuition stipend) that Fresno State hopes will get more fans into the seats, there is a lot going on around the game.
“They’re doing free parking – and I know that’s big,” Harris said.
The Bulldogs have clinched a first-round bye for the MW tournament in Las Vegas (March 9-12) and will earn the No. 2 seed with a win over Colorado State and a Nevada win at Boise State on Wednesday.
But the Bulldogs (20-9, 11-5 MW) also have not lost sight of the game with Colorado State. They will clinch second place with victories in their final two regular-season games.
“We’re going to come out and play,” said Harris, who is averaging 25.9 points over the past seven games. “We know what we need to do. We know how we have to come out and execute. We’ve been doing that our past couple of games. We’ve been playing our best basketball and hopefully we can play better.”
The Rams (15-14, 7-9) have won three in a row and eight of nine in the series and come in leading the Mountain West in scoring at 79.9 points per game. Three Rams are averaging in double figures led by Antwan Scott (16.4), and two others are scoring at least nine points per game.
“We know we’re playing a really good Colorado State team that arguably is the best scoring team in our league,” Terry said. “They average 80 points a game and can really shoot the basketball at all five spots. They can really shoot the ball and on top of that they can go and rebound the ball – they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams or the best offensive rebounding in the league.
“Very tough test for us. We know we have a good game coming in here. We know we’ve had a very difficult time against the Rams in the past.”
Watson minutes – Since returning from a calf injury, Paul Watson has played eight minutes against Air Force and three at New Mexico, and Terry said the forward’s time on the court will continue to progress slowly.
“He suffered a very difficult injury, one that as much as you have to get past the physical part, you have to get past the mental part as well, and I think that’s the part that he’s trying to put together,” Terry said. “I think we’re OK where we’re at right now. Jahmel Taylor has come in and given us good minutes with what he is doing. Sam (Bittner) has given us good minutes. Juice has stepped up his game. Paul will give us what he’ll give us.
“He’s a team guy. He understands that and he’ll work his way back to where he’s going to give us positive minutes.”
Blasts from the past – Other members of that first full recruiting class with Harris? They included point guard Aaron Anderson, who transferred after one season back home to Central Oklahoma and is now at Oral Roberts; forward Braeden Anderson, who was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with career-threatening injuries and transferred to Seton Hall to play and attend law school; center Tanner Giddings, who averaged 1.9 and 2.1 points in two seasons before transferring to Chico State; guard Broderick Newbill, who played 18 minutes in a redshirt freshman season before transferring to Missouri-Kansas City; and center Robert Upshaw, the former Memorial High standout who was dismissed after multiple violations of athletic department policy and ended up at Washington, where he again was let go due to a violation of team rules.
MEN’S BASKETBALL: FRESNO STATE VS. COLORADO STATE
- Wednesday: 8 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 20-9, 11-5 MW; Rams 15-14, 7-9
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Colorado State leads 15-12 overall; Fresno State leads 9-2 in Fresno
- Last meeting: Colorado State 71, Fresno State 59 on March 12, 2015, in Las Vegas