The different rotations and starting lineups (eight, to be exact) Fresno State has experimented with could indicate that the perfect formula has yet to be found.
Some of that has been due to injuries Fresno State was missing two of its veteran starters at New Mexico. But the end result against Wyoming Wednesday night at the Save Mart Center?
A winning formula.
Tyler Johnson returned from injury, Kevin Foster was back in the mix and key contributions from freshman Tanner Giddings – a four-game starter during non-conference play – off the bench helped launch the Bulldogs past Wyoming 49-36 for their first Mountain West Conference win.
“This win tonight is a byproduct of what we do every day,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We pride ourselves on playing really hard, guarding hard. It’s a byproduct of what we do every day and every single possession.”
Johnson scored a game-high 18, Giddings scored a career-best 10 and Jerry Brown contributed six points, three assists (all three passes were to Giddings), three blocks and four steals against a Wyoming (14-2, 1-2 MWC) squad that overall shot poorly: 12-of-50, 24 percent, from the field.
Both Foster and Johnson were perfect from the free throw line (4-of-4 and 6-of-6, respectively).
“It just boils down to preparation,” Brown said. “This whole week we’ve just been preparing. Coach gave us a good scouting report.
“If we follow the scouting report, coach just makes everything basic for us and makes it so we can have fun. Today, we did a good job executing the scouting report.”
The Bulldogs, trailing 12-7 early on, went on a went on 13-2 scoring run largely characterized by Giddings finding open shots in the lane through passes from Brown.
The Bulldogs (7-9, 1-2 MWC) made 64 percent of their shots from the field in the first half.
“Jerry passed me the ball, but it was all preparation,” said Giddings, who made 4-of-5 for eight points in the first half. “In practice, Coach always tells me I need to grow up and I need to be more aggressive on offense. Today, I just had that in my mind all game long, so I feel like that helped.”
At halftime, Fresno State led 26-16. The lead would peak as high as 41-21 with 8:59 to play.
And exactly how shuffled were the Bulldogs’ minutes against Wyoming?
- Kevin Olekaibe, who started in all of last year’s and this year’s games, played 11 minutes off the bench.
- Freshman center Robert Upshaw, who started the game before against New Mexico, did not play at all.
- Freshman Marvelle Harris made his second consecutive start as a guard and Aaron Anderson made his fifth start at the point.
- Against the Cowboys, just three players came off the bench, with Giddings leading the way with 23 minutes.
“We shortened the bench based on some guys’ maturity issues,” Terry said. “We’re going to go with guys that understand the urgency right now in this time of year. In conference play, you have to bring it everyday.
“You can’t just expect it on game day and think it’s just going to happen for you – it doesn’t happen that way.”
Leonard Washington, the Cowboys’ leading scorer heading into the game, was held to only six points. It also didn’t help that Wyoming was without Luke Martinez, its second-leading scorer, who was suspended from the team indefinitely on Monday.
Larry Nance Jr. and Riley Grabau led the Cowboys in scoring with 10 points apiece. Fresno State finished the night 0-for-6 behind the arc – making it the first time since Dec. 2, 1995 (554 games) that Fresno State did not convert a 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs host Nevada (9-7, 0-2 MWC) Saturday night, with a 7 p.m. tipoff.