The Fresno State Bulldogs rebounded from what can best and charitably be called a poor performance in a loss at Cal State Bakersfield, winning on the road at Oregon State on Friday night to snap a nine-game losing streak to teams from the Pac-12.
But a team in development continues to work on making a point.
Jaron Hopkins, Fresno State’s point guard, played a season-low 26 minutes in the victory over the Beavers and was not on the floor when the Bulldogs made it back from an 11-point first-half deficit or when they pushed their lead to 15 points in the second half.
When you play the point at this level, you have to initiate the offense first and then become a playmaker. He’s learning that. He’s going to get better with that as the season goes along.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
In those 26 minutes, Hopkins’ plus/minus was a minus-9 and in the past two games he has 10 turnovers to four assists, working through how best to pair a need to initiate offense with a dynamic ability to make plays and create or find shots.
“It’s really hard to do at this level,” coach Rodney Terry said. “What we’re asking him to do is initiate offense with pace and then become a playmaker. Jaron is really good playmaker and he kind of wants to be a playmaker first, before initiating offense.
“It’s a maturation with him at that spot, no different than what we had with Cezar Guerrero. Cezar wanted to be a playmaker. When you play the point at this level, you have to initiate the offense first and then become a playmaker. He’s learning that. He’s going to get better with that as the season goes along. He’s a guy that can make plays for us, but he’s learning how to initiate our offense with pace.”
At Oregon State, the Bulldogs in the first half hit 34.6 percent of their shots and were just 3 of 19 before hitting six of their last seven shots in the half including four 3-pointers by Jahmel Taylor. But in the second half they had Taylor play more on the ball and they were much more efficient at attacking the Beavers’ zone.
Through five games and into play on Saturday, Fresno State ranked ninth in the Mountain West in assist/turnover ratio. The Bulldogs have 60 assists and 68 turnovers.
They played more inside-out, getting the ball to the high post. They were more aggressive driving the basketball, getting to the rim or getting the ball to an open shooter.
From the 16:12 mark, up 34-32, they went on a 17-6 run.
“We were executing,” Terry said. “We were calling plays and guys were executing and we were getting good looks. We talked heavily to this group about, ‘Take what the defense gives you.’ The other night we played at Bakersfield we felt like we didn’t take what the defense gave us. We just kind of had our mind made up already on what we were going to do. We didn’t execute. We did a better job of taking what the defense gave us and really trying to execute when we called a play.”
Terry likes to get Hopkins off the ball in stretches and has options at the point guard in both Jahmel Taylor and Deshon Taylor, making use of his playmaking ability.
“He can take some pressure off Jaron, let Jaron play off the ball a little and give him some room to drive and do some things as well and not have to wear himself down so much at the point,” Terry said, of Jahmel Taylor. “We can free him up some, too.”
But, with upcoming road games at Drake and Marquette and at Pacific and Oregon before starting Mountain West play, Hopkins needs a balance.
In the Bulldogs’ second game, a loss to Prairie View A&M, Hopkins hit 9 of 14 shots and had 19 points and four assists. Next out, off a surprising loss, he took a season-high 18 shots and scored 23 points with only one assist in a victory over Lamar.
The other night we played at Bakersfield we felt like we didn’t take what the defense gave us, we just kind of had our mind made up already on what we were going to do. We didn’t execute. We did a better job of taking what the defense gave us and really trying to execute when we called a play.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
That led to the past two games, the loss at Bakersfield and the win at Oregon State, in which the Bulldogs struggled to find it at the offensive end.
At Bakersfield, they never did shake it.
“He’s going to be fine,” Terry said. “First of all, he’s a 6-5 point guard and a lot of people don’t have 6-5 point guards, and he’s an athletic 6-5 point guard who can get to the paint, can do a number of different things.
“It took Cezar Guerrero three years to get it and we’re trying to squeeze this into a couple of games so far, so it’s not going to be perfect. But when we get some rust off him and get him to have a really good feel for what he’s doing, he is going to be a highly-effective player for us at that spot.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. MENLO COLLEGE
- Wednesday: 5 p.m. at Save Mart Center (9,604)
- Records: Bulldogs 3-2, Oaks 5-3*
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)/KGST (AM 1600)
* Menlo plays Southern Oregon at 4 p.m. Saturday