The Fresno State men’s basketball team continued its hot start to the 2015 season, defeating the Cardinals of Lamar 80-72 Monday night in the Save Mart Center.
“The first part of the game [Lamar] came out and jumped it up from a defensive standpoint, and I thought we had to make some adjustments on that,” head coach Rodney Terry said. “They mixed a lot of different defenses, and we played through that and as we got into the second half, we finally found the rhythm.”
For the first time in 33 years and only the second time in school history, the ‘Dogs hit the hardwood against the Cardinals.
Looking to continue their hot start, Fresno State was slow out of the gate. The ‘Dogs missed their first four shots, but then junior forward Torren Jones took over.
Jones scored 12 of the team’s first 20 points, sparking an early 8-2 run to give the ‘Dogs their first lead of the game. Early on it was the Jones and Kevin Booze show, as the sophomore guard scored 15 of Lamar’s first 25 points to keep them in the game.
The ‘Dogs finished the half leading by 10, shooting just under 40 percent from the field. Jones led the way posting 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Senior guard Marvelle Harris was right behind him with nine points, playing 19 of the first 20 minutes for the ‘Dogs.
“It feels good. I’m scoring, so I am doing something right,” Jones said. “Obviously they weren’t the prettiest makes, but it got me in my flow, and it got some points on the board.”
Fresno State continued its strong performance in the second half, increasing its lead to 16 points with just over 16 minutes to play. The ‘Dogs, however, struggled to close out the Cardinals as they saw their lead dwindle down to eight with four minutes to play.
Fighting off the valiant comeback effort from Lamar, the Bulldogs were able to hang on for the eight-point victory, improving to 2-0.
Jones led the way for the ‘Dogs, posting a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Harris was right there with him, finishing his night with 19 points and a 12-for-12 effort from the free-throw stripe. Junior forward Cullen Russo also posted a double-double in the game, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I am trying to help my team win in any way possible,” Russo said. “Whether it’s playing defense, getting rebounds, picking teammates up or being the energy guy, whatever I can do to help win.”
Fresno State outrebounded Lamar 51-39, including 22-8 on the offensive glass. The ‘Dogs were also able to force 16 Lamar turnovers and finished with a 15-to-8 assist-to-turnover ratio for the game. They were able to maintain a lead for 32 of the game’s 40 minutes.
“Our transition defense is starting to be really good for us early in the season,” Terry said. “That’s some of the hardest things for teams to get really good at early in the year – getting back and getting your defense set.”
The victory for the ‘Dogs was just the first in a four-game series as part of the 2015 Roundball Showcase. Fresno State will host the Dons of San Francisco Thursday for Game 2 and will wrap up the tournament at home Friday, Nov. 27, when Delaware State comes to town.