After a forgetful Mountain West tournament performance, the Fresno State men’s basketball team were able to still play postseason basketball in March.
Even though it may not have been the postseason tournament the ‘Dogs were hoping to play in, they opened up first-round action of The Basketball Classic against Eastern Washington on Thursday night at home in the Save Mart Center.
After a rough start, the Bulldogs took control in the second half and went on to defeat the Eagles 83-74.
The Bulldogs looked like they were playing more freely and loose in this one and were enjoying being able to play more basketball.
Head Coach Justin Hutson talked about how they have been taking it easier and focusing on how to get better.
“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are just trying to say the same thing on how we are going to be better, make better decisions, and be a little bit more connected, I do enjoy being around these guys,” Hutson said.
In a slow start for the Bulldogs, they found themselves down 22-14 to the Eagles with 13:41 remaining in the first half.
That deficit was erased after a 13-0 run by the ‘Dogs capped off on an Anthony Holland 3-pointer, making it 41-29 with 2:37 to go in the first half.
Fresno State closed out the first half strong going into halftime with a 14-point lead, leading Eastern Washington 47-33.
Brazilian native Leo Colimerio had the hot hand in the first half putting up 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, as well as going 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Colimerio added four rebounds and two steals.
Fresno State shot the ball well in the first half, shooting 51.5% on 17-of-33 from the floor and 30.8% on 4-of-13 from downtown.
In the second half the Eagles did not go away quietly as they used a 7-0 run to make it 54-48 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Deon Stroud and Donovan Yap along with the rest of the bench helped take the lead back out to double digits as the ‘Dogs went on a 6-0 run with Stroud contributing to the run with a free throw and Yap with a layup and a free throw.
Stroud was a major contributor off the bench for the Bulldogs scoring 14 points grabbing three rebounds and swiping two steals, Stroud also saw the most minutes he has seen in a while, seeing the floor for 28 minutes.
The senior also had a highlight-reel slam dunk.
“I thought he played well, he played under control for the most part except for that lob from half-court and then the last one there, so if he can continue to play good decision-making basketball he can help us,” Hutson said.
That 6-0 run made the score 70-52 with 9:16 remaining.
The Eagles were never able to get the deficit under double digits until the last minute of the game and by then it was too late.
Holland was the leading scorer in the win, pouring in 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Holland also grabbed eight rebounds and swiped one steal.
Holland was just happy to get a chance to play another game.
“I’m just happy to play another game you know, just being able to play in march and gain experience no matter what time it is I’m just happy to play.”
Colimerio was another major contributor just behind Holland with 17 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
Eastern Washington’s Linton Acliese gave Fresno State all they could handle as he scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor and 3-of-7 from the three-point line.
The Bulldogs overall shot pretty well for the game, shooting 48% on 28-of-59 from the field, although not shooting as well as the first half from downtown, the ‘Dogs still shot 27% on 7-of-26 attempts from downtown.
They took care of the ball as well, only coughing it up nine times for the game and their stingy defense forced 17 turnovers helping their offense score 21 points off of those.
With the first round win, the Bulldogs will take on Youngstown State in a quarterfinal matchup for the Basketball Classic at the Save Mart Center on Wednesday March 23.