By Stephen Trembley
FRESNO, Calif. --- March Madness has made its way to the San Joaquin Valley and the Bulldogs put on a fun show at the Save Mart Center on Monday night as the Fresno State men's basketball defeated Princeton 72-56 in the College Basketball Invitational Quarterfinals.
The win propels the Bulldogs in the CBI Semifinals, which Fresno State (19-16) will host on Wednesday night when the 'Dogs face Old Dominion on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $10 and go on sale at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center Box Office and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
"It takes a team to win this time of year and your best players have to put it in the books and they have to play on both ends of the court," Fresno State third-year head coach Rodney Terry said. "This time of year, it's a privilege to still be playing. When you're playing this deep in the book right now, there's nothing like it and you have to play even possession like it's your last and you can't have any regrets. It's a great time of year and I think our guys are excited to still be playing but knowing that you play hard and you get a chance to win."
To get there, the 'Dogs turned to their senior team captain - All-Mountain West guard Tyler Johnson - for a big night. Johnson finished with 23 points and eight rebounds with four assist and two steals.
Fresno State shot 47.5 percent from the field and limited the Princeton Tigers to just 31.7 percent from the floor as the 'Dogs snapped the Tigers six-game win streak.
"Great team effort tonight by every guy on the floor and the bench was great," @RodneyTerry tweeted after the game. "We really appreciate our crowd tonight! The Red Wave made the difference tonight! We need you Wednesday against a well-coached Old Dominion team!"
The Bulldogs are now just one win away from its first 20-win season since going 22-10 during the 2006-07 campaign and reaching the CBI Championship series for the first time in school history.
"We are one of the few teams in our conference still playing and we had the ability to advance in the post season," Johnson of the team's mindset. "The young guys are getting an experience from post season wins and we are all wanting to go out on a good note."
The opportunity to continue to play in a tournament setting is something that Terry cites as an important step in preparing the team for the future.
"We have quite a few young guys that will be back," Terry said. "To play at this time of year and the kind of experience those guys have gained all year long... it's going to be valuable for us in the future. We're just excited that our guys are getting the opportunity to get an experience like this right now and know what this time of year is all about."
Fresno State is playing in its first postseason tournament in seven seasons and the first in Terry's three seasons as the Bulldogs' head coach.
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