Fresno State got beat up a bit in a 70-55 victory on Tuesday over Bakersfield, losing point guard Jaron Hopkins with a back injury, Johnny McWilliams with an ankle.
It was a test and the Bulldogs passed while down two key pieces and dealing with an edgy, physical basketball game, some junk defenses and some trouble with fouls and turnovers. They allowed the Roadrunners to hit only 32.7 percent of their shots and had a 41-28 rebounding advantage, including 29-11 in the second half.
That’s all good, for one night, one game.
But Hopkins came in averaging 28.4 minutes per game and had 29 points in a victory over Weber State and 26 in a win at Long Beach State in the past two games. He hit 21 of 29 shots in those two games, had nine rebounds, seven assists, nine steals.
McWilliams had played 9.8 minutes over the Bulldogs’ eight games.
“Both guys, just like anything, you have to test for precautionary reasons in terms of an MRI or whatever that might be,” coach Rodney Terry said.
“I think everything is going to be OK with those guys. Both of those guys are guys that are not used to being injured. They haven’t been injured much in their careers, so just like a lot of people this time of year you’re going to have to play through some stuff.”
Fresno State (7-2) plays at Cal Poly on Saturday, then Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oregon and Cal State Monterey Bay before a break over Christmas.
“Hopefully, we can get them back sooner rather than later,” Terry said.
Against the Roadrunners (4-6), the Bulldogs turned the game by pushing back against a team that beat them 71-63 last season in Bakersfield.
“We watched film from last year and they really destroyed us at their house,” said Deshon Taylor, who scored a game-high 19 points, 13 in the second half and the last two on a layup with two seconds remaining.
“We had to make sure we set the tone. They were talking a lot before the game, during the game. I felt like there was a lot of tension during the game, but we just had to hold our composure.”
Up two at halftime, the Bulldogs went hard to the basket at the offensive end. Ray Bowles started it, scoring on back-to-back drives.
“Seniors,” Taylor said. “They came out to play. Ray came out to play, Terrell (Carter II) came out to play. That really set the tone for the second half.”
Carter, playing with three fouls from the 14:55 mark in the second half and four the final 9:19, ended up scoring 16 points with three rebounds. Bowles had 11 and two. Jahmel Taylor, the Bulldogs’ third senior, started in place of Hopkins in the second half and finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“Next guys had to step up,” Terry said. “J.T. was ready to play. He stepped in and played nice for us at the point guard spot. Deshon had to handle the ball and make some decisions with the ball, as well. Ray Bowles, I thought all those guys stepped up and did a nice job for us.
“We had to play through some things in the post in terms of fouls, and guys had to work the game in that regard, but we got it back on our terms the way we wanted it and really finished the ball game the right way.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT CAL POLY
- Saturday: 7 p.m., Mott Athletics Center (3,032), San Luis Obispo
- Radio: KFIG (940 ESPN)
- Records: Bulldogs 7-2, Mustangs 4-4
- Of note: Cal Poly was picked to finish last of nine in the Big West Conference in a preseason poll, but it has a win at Santa Clara, against the College of Charleston and last out at home over Pepperdine. The Mustangs have been led by 5-10 point guard Donovan Fields, who is averaging 16.6 points and 5.4 assists per game. He has hit 46 percent of his shots including 16 of 32 at the 3-point line and is a perfect 25 of 25 at the free throw line. Senior guard Victor Joseph is second on the team, averging 14.6 points per game, but has not been as efficient as Fields. Joseph has hit only 39.4 percent of his shots, taking 99, one fewer than Fields.