Fresno’s hardly friendly to Aztecs

by Staff

The longest running series in San Diego State men’s basketball history commenced last night when SDSU traveled to Fresno to take on Fresno State University for the 91st time.

It was definitely one for Bulldogs fans last night in Selland Arena as the Aztecs were defeated by FSU 87-71 in front of 10,812 people.

Going into the game, the Aztecs knew they would need big games out of everyone in order to keep it close and maintain any chance of squeaking one out.

Early on, it looked like that just might happen when SDSU point guard Jason Richey converted on a jumper from the baseline, then hit consecutive three-point shots to give the Aztecs an early 9-5 lead. However, what looked like a possible upset turned faster than a raisin in the sun.

Due to the suspensions of Tye Fields and Jacobi Thompson, SDSU was forced to play a zone defense. It was something the Aztecs employed for the first time this season, opting for the 2-3 zone instead of the usual pressure man-to-man defense that had worked so well for them all season long.

“We came out and totally zoned them in the first half, and maybe we should have tried more man-to-man,” Aztecs head coach Fred Trenkle said. “But we did what we could do.”

In fact, it took just the first four minutes of the game for FSU to figure out the equation needed to beat this zone, and it turned out the two variables were small forward Terrance Roberson and power forward Daymond Forney.

The two teamed up for an inside-outside game the Aztecs simply had no answer for. Roberson continuously broke down SDSU’s zone, erupting for five three-pointers in the first half and ended with 17 points, all of which came in the first half.

While he was scorching the men of Montezuma Mesa from the outside, the 6-foot-8 Forney was burning them in the paint. He feasted on the undersized and undermanned Aztec team, going for 21 points and eight rebounds.

“We thought we’d just pack it in tonight and make them shoot it from the outside and hope it wouldn’t go,” Trenkle said. “But it did, and that made us stretch our defense, which opened up the inside for them.

“And any time you can get that, it’s a deadly combination.”

A combination which was forced upon an undersized team further depleted midway through the second half when 6-6 Brian Reinhardt went down with an ankle injury.

But not before the Bulldogs went on a 37-13 run over the final 16 minutes of the first half to build up an insurmountable halftime lead of 46-21.

“I was really happy with the way we played in the first half and I thought we moved the ball very well,” FSU head coach Jerry Tarkanian said. “Terrance Roberson got hot and hit some big buckets for us in the first half.”

While Richey came up with eight early first-half points to spark SDSU, it was a solo mission for the majority of the first half as Roy Kruiswyk and Brady Trenkle Fields and Thompson’s replacements combined for a robust two points on a miserable 1-for-8 shooting performance.

That said, Trenkle emptied his bench, inserting walk-ons and trying several combinations throughout the second half.

And it seemed to work. The Aztecs outscored the ‘dogs in the second half 50-41 behind solid efforts by their two freshman, Stephen Clark and Will Porter. Porter registered a career-high nine points to go along with seven rebounds, while Clark netted six points and grabbed seven rebounds as well.

“For me, I am starting to feel a little more confident out on the court as I get more playing time,” Porter said. “Overall, though, we felt that we could have played a lot better.”

The lackluster effort by the Bulldogs was something that has plagued the team in recent games and something that Tarkanian is still struggling to deal with.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for San Diego State. They came in here and played shorthanded and played hard,” Tarkanian said. “I hope we can learn how to finish a ball game because we can’t just turn it on and off whenever we want.”

On this night, they wouldn’t have to worry about turning it off and on as they turned it off with their 37-13 run to close the first half.

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