In 2012 the Fresno State men’s basketball team struggled in the second half of games more often than not. Fresno State was void of a big man in the middle who could take the entry pass, attract two defenders, and kick the ball out to the wing to take advantage of the double team. 2013’s team is no different with respect to this aspect of the team. With the departure of Robert Upshaw, Fresno State is still void of a big man in the middle who can make the type of plays that leave players open on the outside. However, Fresno State is not void of play makers for the first time in recent history. This past Friday as Fresno State fell behind Bulldog fans once again were left to wonder if this team would be any different than those of years past. If the first game is any indication of what Bulldog fans will be treated to, this team will at least be exciting to watch.
In the first half Fresno State allowed UC Irvine to score at will as they put up 46 points en route to a ten point halftime lead. Seven minutes into the second half the Bulldogs were trailing by twelve with no signs of life in sight. At that point in the game something changed. Fresno State’s offensive production kicked in. Fresno State began to move the ball around causing problems for Irvine. Players such as Allen Huddleston, Cezar Guerrero, and Marvelle Harris began hitting clutch shots bringing the Bulldogs back one shot at a time. For the next thirteen minutes the Bulldogs outscored Irvine 36-24 forcing overtime when Harris hit a three pointer with twenty seconds remaining. But this comeback was much more than twelve points over thirteen minutes. This comeback breathed life into a basketball program that had been nothing more than an afterthought over the course of the prior two seasons.
Rodney Terry came to Fresno to build a basketball program that fans would be proud of. Terry would come in and put together a defensive minded team that would play tough defense on the court allowing the Bulldogs a chance to win many games in the past that they were not able to. The only problem was the fact that while Terry had built a defensive minded team, offensively Fresno State could not score and take advantage of its strong defense. Countless times the Bulldogs defense shut down its opposition only to look up at the scoreboard and realize they were still trailing by ten with less than a minute left.
While it is only one game into the 2013 season, this Bulldog team looks to have a different approach while on the court. Fresno State put up 85 points in regulation at Irvine. While this may not sound like a great deal of points, to put this in perspective Fresno State only scored more than 85 points in regulation one time in 2012, at home against Sonoma State. With all due respect to Sonoma State, UC Irvine is a much better basketball program, one that many did not expect the Bulldogs to walk away with the win over on Friday night. As Bulldog fans we have been treated to a team that has never had a problem keeping the score low. In 2012 Fresno State won games by the score of 39-30 over UC Riverside, 49-36 over Wyoming, and 56-41 over Air Force. It becomes easy to understand that in 2012 points were at a premium for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Friday night against UC Irvine the Bulldogs found themselves in a position they have become accustomed to over the past few seasons: down by more than ten halfway through the second half. In years past the Bulldogs were able to mount a comeback only to lose one heartbreaker after another. Friday night the outcome looked as if it would be the same when UC Irvine hit a three to give Irvine a lead with two seconds remaining. This time, however, Huddleston would hit a game winning three with no time remaining to shock the UC Irvine crowd.
Huddelston’s three pointer may have given the Bulldogs a victory on the road in their first game, but what Huddleston’s three pointer did was give a fan base hope that maybe the 2013 Fresno State Bulldogs will have a level of fight in them that has been absent over the past few years. Maybe this Fresno State team will find itself down during MW play and will have the ability to fight back because of its strong offensive production. Maybe this Fresno State team will not write off its season twenty games in and for the first time in many years will have something to play for with five games remaining. Of course these are hopes that no one has answers to. Tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, Bulldog fans will find out how the Bulldogs function against a strong defensive team. If Fresno State is able to put up a large amount of points once again and keep the game close this may be a season worth looking forward to not only for the players, but for the fans as well.