Short-handed. That’s not the way to be when facing San Diego State, not right now, with the Aztecs riding an 11-game winning streak in Mountain West play that includes some games where they have been teetering but proved very hard to take out.
But that’s what Fresno State will be Wednesday night at Save Mart Center, with forwards Karachi Edo and Torren Jones ruled out – Jones due to an ongoing medical issue and Edo with a left wrist injury suffered in the Bulldogs’ victory over UNLV.
Those are not minor pieces, particularly against the Aztecs (18-6, 11-0 Mountain West), who are leading the conference in rebounding margin at plus-6.2.
Fresno State has won a Mountain West-best 12 home games this season.
When the Bulldogs (15-8, 6-4) lost 73-67 in overtime last month at Viejas Arena, Edo in 35 minutes had a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds, nine of which came at the offensive end. He also blocked two shots. Jones hit 6 of 7 shots in scoring 13 points and also had six rebounds, playing 37 minutes.
But, as coach Rodney Terry pointed out, the Bulldogs have been right there against the Aztecs with less than they will have this time around. There is a 65-62 loss in there in 2013, with a team that went 11-19. There is a 68-60 loss in 2014.
“We’ve got guys in here – and like we always say: ‘It’s next man up,’ ” Terry said. “We have to step in there and play. San Diego State is a really good team. They’re well coached. And they’ve been really good for a while now. But we’ve got pretty good talent and we’ve had lesser teams compete against those guys at a high level.
We’ve had lesser teams compete against those guys (San Diego State) at a high level.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry
“At this time of year, you just have to go play. The bodies that we have we know can get it done for us because they’re going to compete at a high level.”
Against San Diego State that will be junior Cullen Russo and sophomore Terrell Carter II, who have seen a bump in minutes the past three games. Russo has started three in a row in place of Jones, while Carter played 21 minutes, a conference-high for him, in the Bulldogs’ double-overtime victory over the Rebels.
The 6-foot-10 Carter did not play in the first matchup, but his role changed when Edo hit the ground hard when fouled under the basket against UNLV.
“After my brothers went down, I just accepted the role and I have to stay more focused,” Carter said. “When you have two older guys playing in front of you, you kind of get comfortable and you kind of just play your role at that point. But when you’re asked to play a bigger role, you have to focus more, you have to know the ins and outs of plays, you have to know scouting reports much better.
“Sometimes, things happen for a reason. This may be a positive. They might have to play to us. We may play smaller, they have to play smaller. There’s a positive and a negative, so we just take it how it is and do the best we can and get the win.”
As for San Diego State, its 11-0 includes two wins in overtime, four others by three points or fewer and seven by seven points or less. Included is an overtime victory over the Bulldogs on Jan. 19, when Cezar Guerrero tied the score at the end of regulation with a three-pointer from the right corner and the Aztecs won with a complete reversal of fortunes in the extra five minutes on the floor.
San Diego State was only 9 of 20 at the free throw line in regulation, but hit 13 of 16 in overtime. The Aztecs also got a contested three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring from Trey Kell, who went into that game a 33.3 percent shooter from the three-point line for a team that at the time was ranked last in the conference in three-point shooting at 30.6 percent.
Et cetera – There is no timetable for Jones or Edo to return. Edo, however, has not been ruled out for the season with the wrist injury. “There’s an opportunity for a return,” Terry said. “We’re just going to be very cautious with his situation and move it day to day. We’re not going to rush him back and make it worse than what it is right now. We’re going to give it a little time.”
▪ The Bulldogs’ Marvelle Harris was 4 of 20, including 1 of 7 at the three-point line, in the first meeting and has struggled against San Diego State in his career. The one exception – last season at Save Mart Center. Harris was 9 of 16 in that game and scored 25 points when Fresno State won 59-57 to snap the Aztecs’ 47-game wining streak against teams from California.
▪ Since the start of the 2010-11 season, San Diego State is 49-19 (72.1 percent) in games decided by six points or fewer, the best mark in the nation.
MEN’S BASKETBALL: FRESNO STATE VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
- Wednesday: 8 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 15-8, 6-4 Mountain West; Aztecs 18-6, 11-0
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KFIA (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series history: San Diego State leads 60-49
- Last meeting: San Diego State 73, Fresno State 67 (OT) on Jan. 19 in San Diego