Terry’s inaugural season ends in Vegas

Head coach Rodney Terry’s squad fell to New Mexico State, 65-49,
on Thursday in the first round of the WAC Tournament. Terry finished
his first season as head coach with a 13-20 overall record.
Dalton Runberg / The Collegian

In hopes of avenging its two five-point regular-season losses to New Mexico State, the Fresno State men’s basketball team attacked the basket first, but was outsized, outrebounded and outplayed by the Aggies in the Bulldogs’ 65-49 WAC Tournament quarterfinal loss.

“[New Mexico State] came in and they did what they’ve done all year,” said head coach Rodney Terry after the game. “They did a good job getting to the glass. We knew rebounding was a huge part of this team. They got a lot of second-chance points.”

The Aggies pulled down 46 rebounds in their third consecutive win over the ‘Dogs. Of the 46, 21 were offensive, resulting in 24 second-chance points for the Aggies. Fresno State couldn’t match the size and strength of the Aggies’ post players, and grabbed just 30 rebounds and posted only 10 second-chance points.

“I think, by committee, just their size with their second-chance opportunities on the glass was the difference in the game,” Terry said.

New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines led the Aggies with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The 230-pound, 6-foot-6 redshirt senior was also hot from the free-throw line, sinking 8-of-10 from the charity stripe in his double-double performance.

“Wendell’s been a good player all year long,” Terry added.

To match the Aggies’ size and strength, Terry started junior Kevin Foster in place of Jerry Brown III.

“Kevin’s had a great second half of the season,” Terry said. “He really takes the team to another level on both sides of the court … We weren’t going to come in here and not use all of our guns.”

Foster, who started in just 13 games during the regular season, came out quickly and tenaciously, putting up six points in the first half. Foster finished with a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes on the floor.

But Foster’s aggressiveness came with consequence when he was called for his fourth foul early in the second half.

“I just knew I had to play smart,” said Foster of being in foul trouble early. “My coaches told me to play smart so I decided to play as hard as I can but play smart at the same time.”

However, Foster wasn’t afraid of fouling out and continued defending at high intensity.

“If I fouled out, I fouled out,” he added. “I just knew I left it all out there on the floor.”

For sophomore Kevin Olekaibe, the Aggie defense frustrated him the entire night, holding the leading scorer to just 13 points. It was the lowest scoring performance Olekaibe had against the Aggies, who put up 18 and 23 points in the teams previous two meetings, respectively.

Olekaibe, who was averaging 18.2 points per game heading into Thursday’s contest, made only 25 percent of his shots (4-of-16) including a dismal 1-8 from beyond the arc.

“It just didn’t go well for me today,” he said. “New Mexico State, they played well. I just tried to play my best everyday for my team.”

The loss closes the door on Terry’s first season as the Bulldogs head coach, where the team finished with a 13-20 overall record.

Despite the losing record, Terry was proud of his team after the loss.

“These guys, we didn’t have a lot depth this year,” Terry said. “We didn’t have a lot of size, but we didn’t make any excuses. Throughout the course of the year we played with what we had.”

And what they had was a seven-man roster practicing day in and day out, trying to improve every aspect of its game.

“We maxed out,” Terry said. “We didn’t have a lot left in the tank. Our guys are running on ‘E’ right now and the light is on. It was probably on five or six games ago, to be honest with you. I mean, we got so many miles out of these guys this year. We basically played seven guys all season. Again, we never made excuses, ever.”

“We can’t, as coaches, ever think of a day we had a bad practice. We never complained,” added Terry.

“These guys put a lot of hard work, but didn’t always get the results we wanted. We never got outcompeted and I do think we’re running on fumes but we got everything we could get out of this group, in terms of effort and how hard we wanted them to play. I’m proud of this group, I really am.

“As a coach, I can’t ask for anymore than what they gave us this year in practice and in games,” Terry said.

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