The Fresno State men’s and women’s basketball teams won their season openers Friday evening at the Save Mart Center.
The teams played in a Veterans Day doubleheader – the women pulled away in the first game 71-50 against Biola University, and the men followed with a 69-66 victory against the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners.
In the women’s game, guard Tory Jacobs led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Junior center Bego Faz Davalos added 10 points and five rebounds, and sophomore point guard Candice White scored 13 points.
Sophomore guard Raven Johnson (#2) goes to the rim for a layup against Biola University on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 at the Save Mart Center. (Christian Ortuno/The Collegian)
Head coach Jaime White said everything is not going to be perfect, but her team responded every time it needed to and she is comfortable with every player’s ability to contribute.
The men led by 15 with 8:27 left in the game, but UTSA battled back largely because of rebounding – UTSA outrebounded the Bulldogs 55 to 30, including 25 to three offensive rebounds. That disparity gave the Roadrunners many second chance opportunities to keep the game close.
“We had pretty good shooting defense on a lot of those, we just didn’t finish possessions with physical block outs,” head coach Rodney Terry said.
Senior forward Cullen Russo was Fresno State’s best player, leading the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Russo also played a crucial role at the foul line by making 10 of 12 free throws.
“I picked up my motor a lot,” Russo said. “Last season that was a big question, ‘where’s the motor, where’s the motor.’ I feel like this year I’m trying to prove that that won’t be a question.”
Russo said he feels he played well, but he could have rebounded much better and played his assignments better.
Senior forward Paul Watson also played a key role in the Bulldogs’ win. Watson was second on the team with 17 points. Watson and Russo scored 40 of Fresno State’s 69 points.
“It’s a big win for us, being the first game of the season,” Watson said. “It’s nice to be able to protect home court, but just being at home isn’t enough. There were times when we probably could have pulled away.”
Guard Jaron Hopkins was all over the ball defensively, leading the team with five steals to go along with seven points. Guard Jahmel Taylor was third on the team with nine points. Four Bulldogs played in their first Fresno State game – freshmen Darryl McDowell-White, Johnny McWilliams and Bryson Williams and redshirt freshman Nate Grimes.
The women host Utah on Tuesday Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., and the men host Prairie View A&M on Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.