The Fresno State Men’s Basketball team opened its season Tuesday night beating the Division II Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes in its one and only preseason exhibition game.
Coming off a Mountain West Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance, the game gave the Bulldogs their first look at how the team will shape up this season.
“We had little stretches in there where it showed what we can do at a pretty good level,” said sixth-year head coach Rodney Terry. “It’s early, obviously the first time in the lights for a lot of guys.”
Senior forward Paul Watson got off to a good start leading the Bulldogs with eight points in the first half. Both teams traded the lead multiple times in the first half, and San Bernardino held a 36-33 lead at halftime.
The second half was all Watson – he finished the game with a team high 19 points and led the Bulldogs to a 76-69 victory. The offense flowed through Watson as he made play after play to seal the game at the end.
Watson is a four-year starter and has recently worked on his shooting to give himself the edge on the court.
“That’s something I worked on a lot this summer and the spring,” Watson said. “Just trying to work on mechanics, trying to become a more consistent knockdown shooter. I felt pretty fine out there, I just tried to get the best shot that I could out of the offense.”
The Bulldogs played a high-flying brand of basketball with flashy dunks and athletic blocks, which could bring a “showtime” feel for the season.
The Bulldogs feature a much different team that last year, having lost senior guards and team leaders Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis to graduation. This gives other players an opportunity to take on a leadership role this year.
“I think Paul Watson has been probably, of the seniors right now, the most consistent guy both on the court and off the court,” Terry said. “When you talk about a leader, a guy has to do everything the right way to have guys following him on the court. He’s got to go to class, he’s got to make all his tutors, he’s got to be able to do all those things, he’s got to be a model citizen off the floor.”
Terry said that Watson will do positive things as a player and he needs him to be a vocal leader on offense. Terry also said Watson is currently the leader of the team.
Senior forward Cullen Russo did not play in the exhibition due to an administrative issue the athletic department announced. The department said Russo is in good academic standing and continues to practice with the team.
Fresno State was also without senior forward Karachi Edo, and will be without him until at least Dec. 17. Edo had an academic setback in the spring and failed to meet eligibility requirements for the fall semester.
The Bulldogs open the season Nov. 11 at home against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.