"We knew it was going to be a high possession game," said Fresno State Head Coach Rodney Terry. "We did a great job attacking when we broke the press. We got to the free throw line 39 times, the best we have done all year long."
Seattle's full court pressure and zone half court defense created problems for Fresno State early.
The Redhawks jumped out to a 19-9 lead after making eight of their first 12 shots. Olekaibe sparked a 9-0 run with a fast break jump shot to help cut the lead to one point. Seattle shot 58% in the first half, but held just a one-point lead over the Bulldogs who shot 34% and made just 2-of-17 from three-point range.
"We were two for 17 in the first half and we had open looks, we just had to step in and stick it," Terry said. "Difference of two halves, second half came in and guys stepped in and took shots. Guys felt confident and they weren't hesitant."
Olekaibe got the offense going in the second half with two consecutive three pointers to open the half and give Fresno State their first lead of the game. The Bulldogs shot 41% in the second half, but got the bulk of their scoring from the free-throw line. Fresno State shot 31 free throws in the second half, making 23 of them. The ‘Dogs led by eight points with 3:29 remaining, but Seattle scored five points in a five second span to make it a one possession game in the final minutes.
Olekaibe finished the night with a career high 43 points. He shot 12-of-25 from the field, 5-of-15 from three-point range, and was a perfect 15-for-15 from the free-throw line. Olekaibe was just two points shy of Charles Bailey's school record of 45 points set in 1975. Olekaibe is also the first Fresno State player to score 40 or more points in a game since Courtney Alexander's 43-point effort in 2000.
"It means a lot," said Olekaibe. "I was just trying to play my game and play loose. Coach is always telling me if I miss a shot, just keep shooting and I couldn't do it without my team. They looked for me and found me, and I was just stepping in and shooting the ball."
Fresno State got a first half spark from walk-on Brad Ely. Ely played six minutes, the second most off the bench. "We know [Ely] is going to go out and give us great, great, effort and don't be surprised to see him out there," said Terry.
Fresno State improves to 13-16 and next hosts Nevada on Saturday. The Wolf Pack enters with a 22-5 record and a chance to clinch the WAC Championship. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. PST.
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