Orlando Robinson dropped a career-high 33 points and collected 13 rebounds Monday night as the Fresno State Bulldogs rode their hot shooting to redemption, defeating the visiting Wyoming Cowboys 81-61 to split the home series.
Wyoming (7-2, 1-1 MW) shot well beyond the arc in the team’s previous meeting, hitting 12 3-pointers in its 78-74 victory Saturday. This time around, Fresno State (3-3, 1-3 MW) used a big first half run and a barrage of 3-pointers to take control of the game, never giving Wyoming a chance to sniff the comeback.
“We played much better defense this game,” said Fresno State men’s basketball head coach Justin Hutson. “When you’re trying to figure out who you have with limited practice time, limited game experience, you got to hang your hat on something… you tell [the players] whoever plays defense, takes care of the ball and takes good shots is gonna get a chance.”
The Bulldogs did all three of those things. They clamped down on Wyoming’s 3-point attack as the Cowboys hit only 29% from beyond the arc, a far cry from the 40% clip Wyoming shot on Saturday. They cut their turnovers from Saturday’s contest — 16 to 12 — and moved the ball smoothly, save for one or two sloppy stretches of turnovers.
Fresno State shot 55% from the field, took high-percentage jump shots and lay-ups, and totaled 46 points in the paint. Of course, a big part of the paint scoring was the big man for Fresno State.
“The best thing he did was he was in attack mode tonight,” Hutson said on Robinson’s 33-point game. “He was in take-no-prisoner mode tonight and he showed how good he could be.”
Robinson shot a very efficient 12-for-16 on the night, something the Las Vegas native credited his team for.
“I didn’t come into this game thinking I was going to score 33, but I just kept playing off my teammates, made the right plays and that’s what opened it up for me,” Robinson said.
Despite the 20-point final margin, Wyoming battled early in the first half and for the first few minutes, it appeared the game would be another nailbiter.
The Cowboys opened the game with physical play against the Bulldogs, picking up four fouls within the first four minutes of action. Whether or not it had an impact on Fresno State, the Bulldogs shot 3-for-12 to start the game, including a stretch where they missed five consecutive shots. The ‘Dogs fell into their largest deficit of the game, 15-9 with 11:45 left in the first half, before Orlando Robinson completed an and-one layup prior to a media timeout.
From that timeout on, Fresno State caught fire shooting the ball, going 8-for-10 and swishing four 3-pointers. Jordan Campbell accounted for two from long distance, part of his 8 points off the bench.
Fresno State went on a 16-1 run for a five-minute stretch in the first half, fueling their 37-26 halftime lead. The Bulldogs connected on 5-of-10 3-pointers in the first half, two days after they hit five for the entire game against Wyoming.
The Cowboys never got their deficit below nine points in the second half, as Fresno State relied on a consistent, paint-heavy attack featuring a whole lot of Robinson. The 7-foot sophomore scored 18 of his 33 points after halftime.
The Bulldogs’ physicality and depth were on full display Monday, as they muscled their way to 42 rebounds to Wyoming’s 25, and had more than double Wyoming’s production off the bench (Fresno State with 43 bench points, Wyoming with 18).
Christian Gray was the Bulldogs’ top contributor off the bench with 17 points and 9 rebounds.
“We just try to come in and feed off that energy,” Gray said. “[The starters] give us that energy, and we just try to keep it going.”
“We are trying to figure it out on the fly. You’re going to give some guys a couple of games here, and see if they’re doing what you’re asking,” Hutson said. “I saw some good stuff from the guys off the bench tonight of playing Bulldog basketball.”
Foul trouble plagued Fresno State in Monday’s game. Deon Stroud (11 points) sat out for much of the second half with four fouls, and Wyoming entered the bonus with nine minutes left in regulation. Fresno State committed 21 fouls to Wyoming’s 15, but the foul margin wasn’t significant enough to allow Wyoming back into the game.
With the loss, the Cowboys head back to Laramie for their conference home opener against Boise State next Monday, Jan. 11.
As for the Bulldogs, their star big man hopes the home series split can provide momentum for the team as they continue to navigate the Mountain West.
“This game is going to set us up for the rest of the conference by giving us confidence, and it shows us we can compete at a very high level,” Robinson added.
Up next for Fresno State is another home series, on Jan. 8 and 10 against rival San Jose State.