The Fresno State men’s basketball team gets No. 21 TCU on Thursday, and its guards will get an early-season test.
But the Bulldogs also will have forward Nate Grimes available to play after sitting out an opening win while school officials worked through an eligibility issue, which is just as significant (if not more so) going forward than having Deshon Taylor, Noah Blackwell, Braxton Huggins and New Williams in a November matchup against the Horned Frogs’ veteran, high-scoring guards.
Grimes, a 6-foot-8 junior, has been practicing with the Bulldogs while held out and is a significant piece for coach Justin Hutson, in his first season.
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A year ago, Grimes was one of the most productive players per 40 minutes in the Mountain West Conference, averaging 4.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game; 14.5 points and 17.4 rebounds per 40 minutes.
“He’s been practicing a little bit,” Hutson said. “We’ll see. We’re going to throw him out there.”
While the Bulldogs (1-0) will get some minutes from Grimes against the Horned Frogs at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, they are a bit banged-up with Huggins and forwards Aguir Agau and Christian Gray missing some practice time due to injuries since a 91-63 victory over Alaska-Anchorage.
Hutson will have a better idea where the Bulldogs are and what he has to work with after 40 minutes against the Horned Frogs, who are 2-0 with wins over Bakersfield (66-61) and Oral Roberts (79-62).
TCU is led by guards Desmond Bane and Alex Robinson, a 6-foot-5 junior and a 6-1 senior, who have hit 50.0 and 54.5 percent of their shots and are averaging 18.0 and 17.5 points per game.
Robinson is a preseason All-Big 12 honorable mention selection and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award. He also is averaging 6.0 assists per game, and when the Bulldogs played at TCU in the NIT in 2017 he had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 66-59 Horned Frogs’ victory.
“It will be a good challenge for us on the road,” Hutson said. “It’s just a matter if we’re going to be able to keep our composure and see how hard we’re going to play. I know Deshon is going to play hard.
“But early in the year you’re always finding out about your team. You’re always optimistic. I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic.”
Fresno State, which has not beaten a ranked team on the road since 2000 and a ranked team in a non-conference game on the road since 1982, handled Alaska-Anchorage with relative ease.
Huggins led the Bulldogs with 23 points, knocking down 8 of 15 shots including 5 of 11 at the 3-point line. Williams added 14 points and Taylor, a preseason all-conference selection, scored 11 points with two rebounds, six assists, one blocked shot and four steals.