Fresno State is already making history under new head coach Rodney Terry in just its third home game of the season.
The ‘Dogs welcomed Pac-12 member Utah to the Save Mart Center last Saturday and won in dominating fashion, 82-52, the second win by 30 points in less than a week. On Nov. 30 Fresno State defeated the Academy of Art, 85-55.
The 30-point margin victory over Utah was Fresno State’s first win against any Pac-12 or Pac-10 school since 2006 and the largest ever against a current Pac-12 member in 50 years. Back then, the 1961 version of the Bulldogs defeated Arizona State, 61-41. After the game, Terry acknowledges how hard the ‘Dogs played.
“I thought we had really good energy,” Terry said. “And I thought the guys really locked into the game plan.”
Fresno State got contributions from junior forward Kevin Foster, who led the way with a career-high 16 points, while senior guard Steven Shepp added 15 points — all in the second half — to help the ‘Dogs secure their fourth win of the season.
The Bulldogs’ leading scorer Kevin Olekaibe emerged in the second half with 10 points, after being held to only five points in the first 20 minutes. The sophomore shot 50 percent (3-of-6) from three-point range and finished with 15 points to go along with three assists and three steals.
Saturday’s victory also marked the first time four different players scored in double digits during Terry’s tenure and was the first since Fresno State lost to Nevada in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, 90-80.
Senior guard Jonathan Wills has become the second scoring option for Fresno State, averaging more than 11 points per game and has scored 11, 11 and 26 points in the past three games, respectively.
In the other Pac-12 game that Fresno State played in the preseason National Invitation Tournament, The Bulldogs lost to Stanford 75-59, but the score doesn’t indicate how close the game was in the first half with Fresno State down 34-30.
But the ‘Dogs played with the type of energy that will need to carry on to this week as the Bulldogs face two more Pac-12 opponents, travelling to both Colorado and Oregon on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
Terry realizes the importance of such a rigorous nonconference schedule that includes four Pac-12 opponents, but won’t shy away from the competition.
“They say ‘When you play that type of talent level, it’s going to be tougher for you,’ but I disagree with that,” Terry said after Saturday’s win. “There’s a lot of parity in college basketball and on any given day, anybody can be beat if you don’t bring it.”
And on Saturday, the ‘Dogs brought it as they defeated the Utes in front of an announced crowd of 5,843. This is the biggest win in Terry’s short collegiate head coaching career.
The current three-game stretch through the Pac-12 has proved to be the ideal way for Terry and his ‘Dogs to prepare for WAC play, which opens on Jan. 5 against Utah State, the returning conference champions.
“We’ll enjoy this for the day and then we’ll have to flush it out,” Terry said. “And move on to the next one. Our focus is one game at a time.”