Nov. 4, 2011
FRESNO, Calif. - Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe hit seven 3-pointers and scored 29 points as new Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry's team hit the court for the first time with a 73-53 victory over Fresno Pacific in an exhibition game Friday night at the Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs hit 10 3-pointers and played tremendous defense in stretches, a mentality that Terry looks to instill in his team full-time.
"Guys got to understand the importance of half-court defense and we're working at that every day to try to become a better defensive team," Terry said.
In spurts Friday, Fresno State really showed what it is capable of.
The Bulldogs forced 20 turnovers and did not allow the Sunbirds to get a field goal over an eight-minute span from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second. Fresno Pacific shot 37 percent in the game while the Bulldogs shot at a 44 percent clip.
Offensively, Olekaibe led Fresno State's up-tempo attack and he made Fresno Pacific pay for sitting in its zone defense. He hit four 3-pointers in the first half and continued his tear in the second half where he scored 17 of his 29 points.
"It was mostly my teammates," Olekaibe said when asked if he was feeling it Friday. "They found me when I was open and I just had to shoot the ball."
Terry hinted that Olekaibe's role on the team will be to produce just like he did in the exhibition.
"We need him to score night-in and night-out, but we've also asked him to expand his role on the defensive end," Terry said. "We want to get up and down the floor and we are going to be undersized all year, so we are going to need as many easy baskets as we can get."
Sophomore guard Tyler Johnson (13 points) and freshman forward/center Grant Hefeng (10 points) both reached double figures. Steven Shepp had a game-high seven assists to go along with two of Fresno State's 11 steals in the game.
Fresno Pacific guard George DeLeon led the Sunbirds with 23 points, but no other Fresno Pacific player reached double figures.
Olekaibe got the `Dog out to a 32-25 lead after the first half. He hit four the four treys to account for 12 first-half points and the Bulldog defense buckled down, not allowing Fresno Pacific to score in the last 5:11 of the first half.
Fresno Pacific was only able to make 2-of-10 field goals in the last seven-plus minutes of the first half, which the Bulldogs finished with a 12-0 run.
Fresno State continued to pull away early in the second half with its stern defense and 3-point shooting. Olekaibe drained two more three's and had an electric dunk off a turnover before Garrett Johnson's trey at 17:26 put the `Dog up by 20, 46-26.
After not allowing a field goal in the last five-plus minutes of the first half, the Sunbirds only got three field goals against the `Dogs in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Fresno Pacific would close the gap down to 11 at the six-minute mark, but the Bulldogs closed out the game in the same fashion as they did in the first half, ending on an 11-2 run.
Overall, Terry was pleased with his team and said they will continue to work to improve as the season progresses.
"We had some points of emphasis going into this game that we really tried to get better with from our previous scrimmage," he said. "We really worked hard to try to get better as a defensive team."
"We Are Your Team" - Fresno State opens the 2011-12 regular season at home on Nov. 11, when the Bulldogs host Illinois State at 7 p.m. at the Save Mart Center.
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