Fresno State and coach Rodney Terry clearly have some things to figure out, and at this point in the season and with more than 300 teams playing Division I basketball, they are by no means alone.
It took the Bulldogs a while to finally get it a year ago, and that was a far more veteran group with three senior guards in Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis. That team also had the luxury of trying to find some answers when playing on its home floor.
Not the case this season.
The Bulldogs on Friday play at Oregon State, the second of a nine-game stretch where their schedule is providing no favors in trying to get it right.
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Six of the nine are on the road, starting with that 71-63 loss at Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday that was never as close as that final score might indicate.
The ball kind of stuck a little bit for us. The ball has to move. We’ve got to have less dribble. We’re an efficient team when we’re moving the basketball, and we didn’t do that.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
At the offensive end, the Bulldogs, who are down key pieces in forward Karachi Edo and five-star recruit William McDowell-White, made just one field goal between 16:51 and 4:48 in the second half – a 3-pointer from Cullen Russo.
The Roadrunners pressured up the floor, extended their defense and aggressively challenged every pass, every catch, and the Bulldogs didn’t handle it well.
“We didn’t make the kind of decisions that we have been making over the past two games,” Terry said after the Bulldogs fell to 2-2. “We’ve got to have less dribble. We’re an efficient team when we’re moving the basketball, and we didn’t do that.”
The Bulldogs had just seven assists on 19 baskets, hitting 39.6 percent of their shots including 16.7 percent at the 3-point line, all season lows. They turned it over 16 times, six by point guard Jaron Hopkins.
“We didn’t trust that process and, you go on the road, you have to be able to do those things,” Terry said. “I don’t know that they sped us up; I just think we made some choices with the ball, especially early in the game, that we have to make better.”
It’s early, but Fresno State is the only Mountain West team to allow an opponent as many as 15 offensive rebounds in a game, and the Bulldogs have done it twice. Texas-San Antonio had 23 and Bakersfield had 18.
Oregon State (2-3) will present a different challenge playing with a big front line led by 6-foot-8 forward Tres Tinkle and 6-10 Drew Eubanks.
But the Bulldogs have not seen the last of the teams that will pressure the basketball, which Bakersfield used to its advantage in putting together a 20-6 run early in the second half that pushed its lead to 22 points.
“We have veteran guards, and coach Terry, he has new guards,” Roadrunners coach Rod Barnes said. “I think a lot of times those guys control the tempo and the pace of the game, and I think that’s what happened for us. It was more our type of game and played with more our kind of flow than it was theirs.”
The Beavers, who have dropped three in a row to Lamar, at Nevada and at Tulsa, have allowed opponents to hit 36.8 percent of their shots, including 31.3 percent at the 3-point line. In three games at Gill Coliseum, Prairie View A&M hit 32.8 percent and had 15 turnovers, Texas-San Antonio 33.3 percent with 12 turnovers, and Lamar 28.2 percent with nine turnovers but scored 30 points off 27 Oregon State giveaways in a 63-60 victory.
.545 Fresno State winning percentage last season when hitting less than 40 percent of its shots; the Bulldogs are 0-1 this season
The Bulldogs, Terry said, need to keep putting pieces together. And they likely will have to do it on the road. Fresno State doesn’t figure to get too much out of two of the three remaining nonconference games at Save Mart Center, playing an NAIA team in Menlo and Division II Holy Names.
“We’ve never had a problem since we’ve been here handling pressure,” Terry said. “We’ll get better and, really, (Bakersfield) had pressure up the floor, but we weren’t caught in traps or anything. Once we got through it, we just had to make the right decisions and flow into our offense. But you’re working through that at this time of year.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT OREGON STATE
- Friday: 6 p.m. at Gill Coliseum (9,604) in Corvallis
- Records: Bulldogs 2-2, Beavers 2-3
- TV/radio: Pac-12 Network/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Oregon State has lost three straight, including 63-60 to Lamar (an 83-64 loser to Fresno State last weekend) and 83-58 to Mountain West school Nevada.