Fresno State basketball's new head coach Rodney Terry and his Bulldogs took the floor Friday night at the Save Mart Center for the second time in seven days.
This time the game counted, and the Bulldogs defeated the Illinois State Redbirds 55-47 on a night dedicated to our nation's service members on Veterans Day. The Bulldogs were able to extend their winning streak to 9-0 in home openers at the Save Mart Center.
The game was hard-fought by both sides and was in question right down to the final minutes.
The Bulldogs led by 11 with 6:46 left in the first half, but the Redbirds climbed back into it, tying it at 26-26 at the half.
After giving up the big lead, the Bulldogs defense tightened up and at one point held the Redbirds scoreless for nearly nine minutes.
Defense was definitely the key to the game for the Bulldogs, though Coach Terry is confident the offense will come around.
"This time of year, early in the year, your defense is always a lot of the times ahead of your offense," said Terry.
"We have some guys that score the basketball, we will continue to get better offensively."
With under two minutes to play, forward Kevin Foster put the Bulldogs ahead 48-44, but Redbirds freshman point guard Nic Miller immediately followed up by nailing a three-pointer to pull Illinois State to within one with 1:27 to play.
Miller finished the night as the Redbirds' leading scorer with 13 points
The Bulldogs had an answer for the big three-pointer as sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe put the nail in the coffin with just over a minute to play by driving to the hole for two and the foul; Olekaibe completed the three-point play to put the Bulldogs up 51-47.
The Dogs defense clamped down from there, not allowing another point. Senior guard Jonathon Wills hit four free throws down the stretch to salt the game away for the Bulldogs.
The Kevins Lead
Olekaibe led all scorers with 18 points. The other Kevin (forward Kevin Foster) added eight points of his own and grabbed six rebounds, including a key jumper down the stretch.
The International Newcomer Seemed Lost at Times
The Bulldogs' freshman transplant from China, Grant Hefeng, still looks like he is trying to find his way. The 6'8" forward finished the night with two points and one rebound in 14 minutes of play; all of his offensive numbers came in the first half.
A Good look at Coach Terry
Coach Terry is intense and not afraid to get at a player at any given time. On the court, you're going to hear it, but you're not safe on the bench either.
Terry is constantly coaching, and again, intense with instructions, making it abundantly clear, "that's how you do or don't do it." He doesn't do it in a negative way, he simply carries it out in an intense manner and his players have seemed to respond well to his style thus far.
Next up for the Bulldogs are the Stanford Cardinal in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off in Palo Alto, California Monday.
All quotes were taken at Rodney Terry's press conference by Gean May on 11-11-2011