Despite big losses, Dogs hold out hope

Orlando Robinson backs down a San Diego state defender in the paint for a field goal at the Save Mart Center on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.

After the Fresno State men’s basketball team suffered a devastating defeat to the Boise State Broncos, the Red Wave was no longer cheering.

The Save Mart Center, which seats up to 16,000 people, was silent. 

In the 2019 preseason predictions, the Bulldogs were expected to finish sixth, but no one expected this.

After losing to Boise State 87-53 – the worst loss for a Fresno State team at the Save Mart Center – the ‘Dogs dropped to 6-14 on the season and 2-7 in the Mountain West (MW) conference. 

This put the Bulldogs at 10th in the conference only in front of Wyoming. 

In the past ten games, the Bulldogs have only won against San Jose State, Wyoming and Air Force. 

They’ve lost three of their past eight games by double digits.

One of the many reasons for all the losses is Fresno State is battling a slew of injuries.

Bulldog senior guard Noah Blackwell missed an extended period of time due to a knee injury, and recently came back on Jan. 14 against No. 7 San Diego State. Other Fresno State players that missed time due to injury were Chris Seeley, Aguir Agau, Anthony Holland and Nate Grimes.

After Saturday’s loss against Boise State, Fresno State used its 11th different starting line-up in 20 games. 

Bulldogs head coach Justin Hutson said the injuries have made it very difficult for the offense to run smoothly.

“When you’ve had so many injuries like we’ve had and guys in and out of the lineup, you’re playing different rotations,” Hutson said. “It’s not going to be very easy to flow.”

Another ongoing development is Grimes’ suspension as the Bulldogs suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team. 

Hutson said in the press conference that they’re teaching Grimes a life lesson, and he “warranted not being here.”

Grimes ended up learning his lesson and bouncing back against Air Force. He put up a dominant effort, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Through the woes of this season, Fresno State has had some things go their way. 

One thing Bulldog fans can find peace in is the huge development of freshman Orlando Robinson.

Robinson is averaging 15.9 ppg and 6.12 rpg in the last nine games. Over this stretch, he’s established himself as the go-to scorer for the Bulldogs with his dominating presence in the post.

The ‘Dogs also set records against San Jose State on Jan. 4 when senior New Williams scored a career-high 32 points and made 10 3-point field goals.

He tied Braxton Huggins’ school and Mountain West record, becoming one of four MW players to make 10 3-pointers in a single game.

When Williams was asked about his night, he chalked it up to the shooter’s mentality.

“As a shooter, you just keep shooting so when you miss one you think the next one’s going in,” Williams said. “It’s always the ‘next shot.’ Even when I make it, it’s on to the next shot.”

A recent addition that brought more attention to the Bulldogs was guard Jordan Campbell.

Campbell was eligible to play in January since he enrolled at Fresno State last year as a mid-year transfer.

In his home debut against San Diego State, Campbell provided a huge spark off the bench and energized the crowd early in the game. 

As a slasher, he is able to drive to the rim with ease and create opportunities for his teammates.

It remains to be seen whether Fresno State can regroup and make a run in the last half of the season. 

However, the Bulldogs have talent.

Their talent was on display Tuesday night when they went to Air Force Academy, Colo. and beat Air Force on their home turf by 11.

Williams had a huge performance, leading the team in scoring with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 6-of-13 from three.

With the win, the ‘Dogs are now tied for ninth seed in MW and are creeping up on the eighth seed.

Despite their season woes, Fresno State is a tough team to face.

The Bulldogs have multiple weapons in Robinson, Williams, Blackwell and Grimes.

If those four can shoulder the load, Fresno State can shock teams in the remainder of the regular season.

It remains to be seen whether the Bulldogs can be fully healthy towards the end of the season, but if their 3-pointers are falling they’re very hard to beat.

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