By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- The Bulldogs had been there before - needing a monster second half after digging themselves into a hole. But this time felt different.
Fresno State chipped away from a nine-point deficit, stifled a potent Matador attack and pounded its way to a 62-49 road non-conference victory over Cal State Northridge on Saturday evening.
"That was really great team effort out there in the second half," Bulldogs head coach Rodney Terry said. "To be honest, I was really disappointed with our defensive effort in that first half. We can't let that happen. But to respond the way we did and execute when we had to, that was big for us. We've been in games like this all year, and knew what it was going to take to get a win."
The 'Dogs have faced bigger deficits this season, like the 17-point first half hole before stunning Arizona State in the final minute for their first road win.
But this time, the Bulldogs shot just 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) in the first half and sorely needed a spark.
And that spark came courtesy of the team buckling down after some passionate halftime encouragement from Terry.
"Not only were the coaches disappointed in our first half showing, I think our players weren't happy with how they were playing," Terry said. "We take pride in our defense and when we started doing the little things right, it really changed the game."
Those little things included playing lock-down defense and finding ways to counter CSUN's gameplan of shutting down the Bulldogs leading scorer Kevin Olekaibe.
Enter junior forward Kevin Foster, who had one of the best nights of his Bulldog career as he tallied team-highs in both points (17) and rebounds (7) in just 24 minutes of action.
"We are really coming together as a team, and we wanted this game as much as every game on our schedule," Foster said. "We've been working hard in practice and anytime you can get a win - especially on the road - it's big."
Tyler Johnson added 11 points and Olekaibe netted 10 (all in the second half) for the 'Dogs in their BracketBusters finale.
The game did feature a rarity with just two referees working the majority of the game after lead referee Bill Gracey left the game less than four minutes into the game with an apparent leg injury.
Cal State Northridge (7-18) was led by Josh Greene, who scored a game-best 20 points, but the Matadors converted just 2-of-22 (9.1 percent) field goal attempts in the second half with no 3-pointers. Fresno State also held CSUN to zero field goals in the final 13 minutes.
The Bulldogs (12-16) will finish up their non-conference slate on Thursday when they host Seattle U, with tip off slated for 7 p.m. PT.
Bulldog Coaches Join "On the Line" Statement Week to Promote Prostate Cancer Awareness
The Fresno State men's basketball coaches are participating in "On the Line" Statement Week to help raise awareness for prostate cancer by wearing blue bow ties and buttons.
For the Bulldogs, the movement hits especially close to home as Fresno State Associate Head Coach Jerry Wainwright is a prostate cancer survivor and continuing to battle against the disease with on-going treatment.
JUST THE FACTS: Prostate Cancer
One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. That's just the way it is. If you're African American the risk is even higher: It's 1 in 5. If someone in your family had it - say your dad or your uncle, you have an even greater chance of getting it. But it's not all bad news - it's TREATABLE and may be CURABLE! This isn't fun stuff to talk about - but don't ignore it. Get the information you need to keep yourself in the game. -From the "On the Line"
To learn more about prostate cancer and "On the Line" Statement Week, you can visit: www.ontheline.com.
"We Are Your Team!" --- Fresno State returns to the Save Mart Center on Thursday night to face Seattle University and begin a four-game homestand. The `Dogs then close the regular season by hosting Nevada (Feb. 25), Louisiana Tech (March 1) and New Mexico State (March 3). The games against Nevada and New Mexico State will feature a special $21 single-game ticket package that also includes a hot dog and medium soda. You can listen to the 'Dogs all season on the radio dial at KMJ 580 AM and make sure to follow @RodneyTerry on Twitter for updates direct from the head coach.
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