Fresno State senior guard Julien Lewis drives the ball past Colorado State’s John Gillon (4) during Wednesday’s conference matchup at Save Mart Center. Lewis scored a career-high 30 points and was one of three seniors honored as part of Senior Night along with Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)
In front of the largest crowd of the year – 9,948 in attendance – Wednesday for Senior Night, the Fresno State men’s basketball team routed the Colorado State Rams for its fifth-straight win.
Fresno State senior guard Julien Lewis showed up big for his last game at the Save Mart Center, scoring a career-high 30 points while making a career-high six 3-pointers to lead the team to an 87-73 win. Fellow senior guard Marvelle Harris added 23 points, his eighth-consecutive game with 20 or more points.
A trio of seniors in Harris, Lewis and Cezar Guerrero were honored before the game as part of Senior Night festivities.
“These seniors have been with us for a long time,” Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. “Julien has been here for three years, Cezar has been here for four years, and Marvelle has been here for four years. They’ve really been the building blocks of this program, and they’ve given us the foundation to move this program in the right direction.”
After struggling early, the Bulldogs tightened up on defense, and some shots started to fall as they asserted themselves offensively and went on a 15-2 run over six minutes to build a 32-16 lead. That same defensive intensity helped extend the lead to 43-23 at halftime for the team’s largest halftime lead this season at 20.
Colorado State came out strong in the second half, pulling to 50-38 early, but Lewis and Harris took the Dogs’ on an 8-0 run as the Bulldogs cruised to the 14-point win for their seventh-largest margin of victory ever in a Mountain West game. The 87-73 victory was their seventh in eight games and moved them one win closer to clinching second place heading into next week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament.
Lewis shot 11-for-16 for the game, including 6-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. After the game, he said he is most grateful for how the coaches and community have embraced him since coming to Fresno State from Texas.
“When I first transferred in, I realized it was a different environment coming from Texas,” Lewis said. “The building environment that Coach Terry set has improved over time. The community has helped us and was behind us the entire time, and I really appreciate that. I am just ultimately happy by the game today. My teammates fought hard tonight, and today was very special for us all, not just the seniors. It is the last time Coach Terry gets to coach us here in the Save Mart Center, and this is a really happy time for us.”
Fresno State controlled the game behind its seniors but also got productive minutes from the entire team. Junior forward Karachi Edo added 13 points, and fellow junior forward Cullen Russo had seven points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Bulldogs improved to a conference-best 16-2 at home and set a new Save Mart Center record for most home wins in a single season.
With one game remaining in the regular season Saturday at Utah State, the Bulldogs are the hottest team in the conference and are buying into Terry’s philosophy.
“I just think we realized that if we play together as a team and play for everybody, not just ourselves, we can beat anybody,” Russo said. “Coach always says, ‘You need to be two feet in, you can’t be one foot in and one foot out.’ Everybody has really been two feet in and believing in each other and believing in our motto.”
Joe De Ciman and Antwan Scott scored 15 points apiece for Colorado State. Tiel Daniels added 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
“People are going to get behind what they feel good about, and we’ve worked really hard to earn the trust of this community to come in and support what we’re doing,” Terry said. “We try to do it by doing the right things on and off the court the right way. These guys have done a really good job of that.
“They’re in a great position to get their degrees, and that’s what I’m most proud of. They’ll walk away from this with something that no one can ever take from them. I’m excited and I’ve loved coaching these guys the time that they’ve been here. I’m just really proud of this group.”