The Fresno State men’s basketball team is on a three-game winning streak after defeating Drake University 78-76 on Saturday and Menlo College 80-67 on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
After a close first half, the men’s basketball team pulled away against the Menlo College Oaks to secure an 80-67 victory at the Save Mart Center.
Fresno State had some defensive struggles in the first half, especially with block outs on rebounds, but played a more intense brand of basketball in the second half to shore up the defense.
After the game, head coach Rodney Terry said that his message to the team at halftime was no different than in previous games, and that the focus for the players is to get better each time they get on the court.
“We didn’t play particularly bad the first half … we missed some shots that we’ve got to continue to try to convert,” Terry said. “We’re missing some layups early in the year right now that are deflating plays for you. We could’ve easily been up 10 to 15 points in the first half had we not missed some of those bunnies and not missed some free throws.”
The Bulldogs missed six of their 13 free-throw attempts in the first half. They improved in the second half, making 13 of 16 attempts.
Junior guard Jaron Hopkins led the team with 18 points and put on a show for the 5,000-plus in attendance. Hopkins was part of three explosive plays in the second half which got the crowd on its feet.
The first was a one-handed slam where he juked out multiple defenders on his drive from the 3-point line to the left side of the rim. The second was an alley-oop pass from him to senior forward and childhood friend Paul Watson, who finished with a two-handed slam. Hopkins found himself on the receiving end of an alley-oop on the third play. Junior guard Deshon Taylor lobbed the ball for Hopkins, who slammed it home.
“Those type of plays are good for us because me and Paul have been playing since we were young, so we kind of have that chemistry on the court,” Hopkins said.
Freshman and Roosevelt High graduate Bryson Williams continued his growth on the season, finishing second on the team with 12 points while adding seven rebounds and two blocks.
The Bulldogs then faced off against Drake inside the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday and were able to secure a 78-76 overtime win.
Although Fresno State built a 20-point lead, Drake fought back, going on a 29-9 run to tie the game 69-69 at the end of regulation.
Hopkins made the game-winning layup with 3.8 seconds left, and Fresno State’s defense was able to hold off Drake’s last second effort on the other end.
“We just have to keep working, and keep getting better,” Terry said. “I don’t think we got lucky today, I think we just have to keep getting better in the areas that we need to get better at.”
Fresno State’s Watson and Jahmel Taylor helped lead the ’Dogs by scoring 19 points each. Watson added six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and one assist.
The Bulldogs will travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday to take on Marquette. The game is set for tipoff at 4:30 p.m. PST and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and 940 AM ESPN Radio.
David Chavez contributed to this story.