In a bizarre turn of events, a brief blackout at the Save Mart Center delayed the Fresno State men’s basketball team’s last nonconference game of the season – but it would not prolong the inevitable.
The Bulldogs will ring in the New Year having avoided losing a fifth game in a row, and head into Mountain West Conference play with a decisive victory under their belt after nabbing a 89-64 home win against Sonoma State on Sunday.
Tyler Johnson scored a career-best 25 points – making 9-of-12 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc – in a game in which the Bulldogs never relinquished their lead.
“It didn’t really feel like a career-high, it was a really long game,” Johnson said.
“I’m glad my teammates put me in an opportunity to be able do that. Like Coach said, we’re getting a lot more shots up because school’s over. It’s a good feeling.”
The Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak through accurate marksmanship. The team made 54.5 percent of its shots from the field and shot 57.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
“Through repetition, our guys are obviously being more confident with their shooting right now,” Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry said. “They’re getting in a groove right now. I think even when we weren’t shooting the ball particularly well this year we were getting great shots.”
Johnson and Kevin Olekaibe made 3-pointers to spearhead an early 29-8 Fresno State lead. Freshman Marvelle Harris scored 20 points off the bench and Olekaibe added 15 points and four steals in a game that saw the Bulldogs force 21 turnovers on the Seawolves (4-4).
Will Olsom led Sonoma State in scoring with 13 points.
Up next for the Bulldogs is their Jan. 9 conference opener against San Diego State, 11-2 and ranked 17th in the nation by The Associated Press, at the Save Mart Center.
As of Sunday, teams in the Mountain West Conference are a combined 91-23.
The Bulldogs (6-7) are the only Mountain West school with a losing record.
“You often look around the country in terms of programs you want to model yourself after… [San Diego State] is one of those programs,” Terry said.
“Our whole league is going to be a tough challenge. We welcome that. We’ve played a very difficult nonconference schedule – one that I think has prepared us for our conference slate.”
Fresno State won its 100th game at Save Mart Center on Sunday. The Bulldogs have played 151 games at the Save Mart Center since relocating their home venue from the Selland Arena.