Big Opportunity Awaits Bulldogs
Nov. 13, 2011
PALO ALTO - The last time Fresno State was part of the Preseason NIT, Melvin Ely and Chris Jefferies led the 21st-ranked Bulldogs on a Thanksgiving trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Semifinals in New York City.
When 'Dogs take the floor on Monday night against the Johnny Dawkins-coached Stanford Cardinal before a national audience, the effort and energy will be reminiscent of past Fresno State teams that earned regular national rankings in the Top 25 and competed against the best college basketball offered on any given night.
"This is a great opportunity for our program and university to compete on this kind of stage," first-year coach Bulldogs head coach Rodney Terry said of being a part of the most tradition-rich preseason tournament in the country. "We have big goals and expectations, and that's why I'm here. The exposure is critical for us getting to where we want to go."
Terry, who is making his first appearance in the Dick Sporting Goods' NIT Season Tip Off (previously called the Preseason NIT) since being a part of Jerry Wainwright's staff at UNC-Wilmington, will coach for the first time in Maples Pavilion, but did help guide the Longhorns past the Cardinal and Fresno natives Brook and Robin Lopez 82-62 in a 2008 Sweet Sixteen game at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
"We are going to have to play with great energy all night and take care of the basketball," Terry shared with his Twitter followers (@RodneyTerry) on Sunday.
Effort can be contagious and lifted Fresno State (1-0) to its 55-48 season-opening victory over Illinois State last Friday night.
In the back-and-forth contest before the Bulldogs pulled away behind a late 12-0 run, the 'Dogs held the Redbirds to 30 percent shooting from the field - a direct result of the power of playing hard, diving for loose balls and causing a series of disruptions on defense.
"I was really impressed with how we played," Terry noted. "That is an expectation of our program, we expect to play hard. Our offense will come, but we have guys that are buying into their roles and that is important at this time of year. Every season is a marathon, not a sprint, and our non-conference schedule will make us a better basketball team."
And that mindset continues when the `Dogs face their first road test against a Cardinal team that scored 91 on Central Arkansas for their 39-point season-opening win last Friday.
It will be Fresno State's sixth-ever game in the Preseason NIT with the Bulldogs holding a 3-2 overall record in its five previous games, including wins over Michigan State, USC and Montana State. Only 16 schools receive invitations to compete in any given year.
This opportunity to compete on this national stage is central to getting Fresno State basketball back on the national radar.
How to Watch and Listen...
"Our Town. Your Team!" --- Fresno State will play at Stanford on ESPNU in the opener of the NIT Season Tip Off on Monday at 8 p.m. The next chance to see the Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center is Nov. 30 when the Academy of Art University Urban Knights visit the San Joaquin Valley. Season tickets are available through the Bulldog Ticket Office.