Picking through the mess left behind by visiting Fresno State and San Jose State on Saturday at the Event Center, two things stick out aside from the final score – Spartans 69, Bulldogs 62. One is bad and one is good, the former obviously far outweighing the latter given the end result.
But while turning over the basketball a season-high 23 times and blowing a 15-point lead, the Bulldogs also were a plus-10 or better in rebounding margin for a second game in a row – they were plus-11, 35-24 – and that is four times in four Mountain West games that they have been even or plus.
That hasn’t happened too often – just once, in the 2013-14 season, when going five games in a row with a rebounding advantage, and they weren’t plus-10 in any of those games.
Fresno State has turned the ball over 20 or more times just twice in 185 games under coach Rodney Terry, both this season. The Bulldogs had 21 turnovers in a victory at Drake and 23 in a loss at San Jose State.
Fresno State had in fact been plus-10 or better in rebounding margin just six times in its first 79 games against MW opponents during the regular season or in the conference tournament.
It has never been a strong suit.
The Bulldogs have not finished plus in rebounding margin in conference play in any of the four seasons they have been in the league, finishing ninth last season at minus-2.7, 10th in 2014-15 at minus-5.7, eighth in 2013-14 at minus-3.2 and seventh in 2012-13 when there were only nine teams in the league at minus-3.8.
But starting the third week of conference play Fresno State is second in rebounding margin in conference games at plus-6.0 and the Bulldogs outrebounded the team ahead of it, Nevada at plus-7.8, 38-36 when they met at Save Mart Center on New Year’s Eve.
Having Karachi Edo back in the lineup has helped, obviously. The 6-foot-6 senior, who was ineligible during the fall semester after not meeting NCAA continuing eligibility requirements, had eight rebounds at San Jose State including three at the offensive end.
We’ve gotten better with Karachi (Edo) back in there, Bryson (Williams) has gotten better. We’re doing a better job on the glass.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry
He is averaging 7.6 in his five games, 7.8 in four MW games, and despite playing in only five games already is tied for third on the team with 17 offensive rebounds and just three away from the lead. Freshman Bryson Williams has 20.
“We’ve gotten better with Karachi back in there, Bryson (Williams) has gotten better,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We’re doing a better job on the glass.
“We just have to keep working it. Rebounding gets down to want-to. You have to want to do it.”
The Bulldogs also have two guards in the Top 20 in the MW – Jaron Hopkins is tied for 12th at 6.0 rebounds per game and Jahmel Taylor is tied for 14th at 5.8.
So, there is that in an otherwise sloppy game where the Bulldogs appeared to get sped-up playing at a pace that should have suited them better. The Bulldogs had only eight fast-break points and blew about that many opportunities to score in transition though unforced errors.
In their four conference games, the Bulldogs are averaging 11.8 offensive rebounds. When advancing to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2001, they had more than 11 offensive rebounds against a MW opponent only five times.
Of those turnovers, San Jose State had seven steals and the Bulldogs were called for five offensive fouls. That leaves a lot of poor fundamental plays to get to 23.
“We had some empty possessions where we had opportunities and we didn’t finish plays,” Terry said.
But it was that type of game. San Jose State was assessed a technical foul in the first half for playing one down. The Spartans had four players on the floor, which explains why, at least in part, Edo was wide open for a dunk on that first-half possession.
The 23 turnovers was a season-high and matched the season high – or low – by a Mountain West team this season. UNLV had 23 in a 68-61 victory over Southern Illinois in December.
The Bulldogs had 75 possessions in the game, 30.7 percent ending with a turnover and 30 with a missed shot – and somecould have been considered turnovers given what they got, or took.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT AIR FORCE
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. at Clune Arena (5,558) in Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Records: Bulldogs 10-6, 2-2 in the Mountain West; Falcons 8-8, 1-2
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940)
- Notable: The Falcons lost 85-58 on Saturday at Colorado State. Air Force turned over the ball a season-high 18 times, leading to 26 points for the Rams, and hit just 5 of 19 shots (26.3 percent) from 3-point range.