David White

David White: Fresno State quick to make us basketball believers

Coach Rodney Terry improved to 5-0 in season openers at Fresno State after the Bulldogs came from behind to beat Pepperdine 69-66 on Friday night at Save Mart Center.
Coach Rodney Terry improved to 5-0 in season openers at Fresno State after the Bulldogs came from behind to beat Pepperdine 69-66 on Friday night at Save Mart Center. Fresno Bee file

Have you breathed yet? We’re asking, because everybody we know was holding their breath until they were navy in the face Friday night at Save Mart Center.

You inhaled when the Fresno State men’s basketball team made a go at it in the second half. We didn’t see you exhale until the final buzzer affirmed the Bulldogs’ 69-66 win over Pepperdine.

Do you believe now?

Sure, coach Rodney Terry’s minions have won season openers before, but this feels different. For the first time in forever, the Bulldogs look, sound and feel like a team that’s going places – and we don’t mean another third-rate postseason tournament for the have-nots and never-weres.

Did you feel those butterflies in your stomach?

Senior guard and Mountain West Conference Preseason Player of the Year Marvelle Harris scored 23 points and junior forward Torren Jones scored 13 and grabbed 14 rebounds in his Bulldogs debut.

That’s the feeling of renewed expectations, where victories aren’t pleasant surprises sprinkled in between defeats.

Were you a little scared there for a minute?

Of course you were. Your team has the Mountain West Conference Preseason Player of the Year in Marvelle Harris. Point guard Cezar Guerrero is lighter. Another guard, Paul Watson, is bigger. For all that, the Bulldogs were shooting square pegs at the round hole Friday, missing eight of their nine nine shots.

Did you start to feel price-gouged by those four tickets you bought for $13?

You were an impossible grouch until Harris drove for a layup and the first lead of the season, 12-plus minutes after you settled into the semi-crowded lower bowl. Same goes for Karachi Edo’s putback for a 30-29 lead just outside the two-minute warning.

Pepperdine was ahead 38-30 at the break and led 61-53 with 4:26 left in the game.

But, no more points the rest of the half? Waves 38, Bulldogs 30. You had all of halftime to choke on that one. You loved the defensive effort, but we all know you can’t win nothing-to-nothing basketball games. If Fresno State wants to win with low scores, go play golf.

With that said, did you like that second-half run, brilliantly described as a leisurely walk? It took Fresno State more than half the half to score 10 points, which somehow was enough for a 49-48 lead. The Bulldogs stole the ball so often, campus police set up an entire division to investigate. When all else failed, Harris didn’t, with his fourth layup of the second half putting Fresno State ahead.

Did you start to wish you stayed home?

Of course you did. Pepperdine rolled up a 61-53 lead with 4:26 to play. You began digging for the car keys, thinking this was a good time to beat traffic – and when’s the last time a Fresno State basketball game had traffic to beat?

Just as you got up, Harris made two free throws, so you decided to give it another minute. Then Julien Lewis hit two freebies, and Watson nailed a layup, and Harris made 1 of 2, and Lionel Ellison swished two free throws for a 62-61 lead with 2:15 to play ... and now there is no leaving.

Fresno State improved to 5-0 in home openers in coach Rodney Terry’s first five seasons.

You couldn’t sit down anymore, could you? The Bulldogs kept scoring, the Waves kept not, and it was 67-63 with 78 seconds to kill. There’s no way the Waves beat your Bulldogs for the second straight year.

You couldn’t make a sound, huh?

Ellison missed a free throw with eight seconds left. Pepperdine was a three-point make away from a period of free basketball. You should have been screaming to make it hard on the Waves. You ought to yell “DEFENSE” to put some advantage into the home court.

But how could you? You were terrified and nervous and couldn’t breathe until Watson stole the ball with two seconds left and heaved it across midcourt for the win.

Do you realize what just happened? For the first time in years, these Bulldogs made you care so much, you wanted to puke. How’s that for progress?

The reporter can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net and on Twitter @bydavidwhite.

Three-point stance

  • 1. Please tell us the Fresno State football team didn’t lose Saturday night at Hawaii. To a team without a coach. Or a quarterback. Or a defense. Or submittable evidence they still in fact play FBS-certified football. Because, in asking how low the Bulldogs can go, it was meant to be a rhetorical question, not a double-dog dare. Pretty please?
  • 2. Once upon a Draft Day, the Minnesota Vikings decided quarterback Teddy Bridgewater > Derek Carr. Remember that when Carr prison-shanks the Vikings between the third and fourth ribs in Sunday’s friendly in Oakland.
  • 3. We want to see the Golden State Warriors go 82-0, just to force ESPN to mention them in the first 15 minutes of nightly SportsCenter programming – after LeBron and Kobe updates, to be sure, but still.