Dec. 5, 2012
By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
CHICAGO/HOUSTON --- Two former Fresno State men's basketball players propelled their NBA teams to victory last night in dominating fashion.
Paul George, who played at Fresno State from 2008-10 before the Indiana Pacers made the No. 10 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds in leading Indiana to a big 80-76 road win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
George posted 10 of Indiana's first 16 points, highlighted by a thunderous dunk as George Hill's 3-point attempt bounced up off the back of the rim. He also netted 11 of the Pacers' final 17.
It was George's best performance since scoring a career-high 37 points Nov. 21 against New Orleans.
"When we got back, we had the day off and I knew that I needed to work," George said of how he prepared to rebound from going scoreless the game before at Golden State. "I headed over to the gym, put up 500 shots, mixed it up from floaters to mid-range to 3-pointers. That's something that's got to be a routine for me."
Meanwhile, Greg Smith is a 6-foot-10 Fresno product who played center for the Bulldogs from 2009-11. The tenacious physical "ox" tallied 13 of his career-best 21 points in the fourth quarter to help Houston erase a 17-point second-half deficit and stun the Los Angeles Lakers 107-105, also on Tuesday night.
"Greg is just country ox strong," said Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson after the game. "That's just an ox strong kid. The good Lord gave him some great genes and you can't move him."
Smith also reeled in nine rebounds and showed he could hold his own and then some against the Lakers' Dwight Howard.
"We are fighters," Smith said. "I told everybody to go out there and play hard. We are not pretenders. I'm going to go out there and do my best. We went out there and just got stops and got the win."
Coming off the bench, Smith led the Rockets' reserves in outscoring the Lakers' bench, 59-20.
Throughout his Fresno State career, George showcased his game-changing athleticism and an unmatched passion for the game of basketball.
As a sophomore, he delivered the program's best season at the free throw line (120-132, 90.9%), ranked as one of the top 20 sophomore NCAA scorers, and averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 42.4 percent (154-363) from the field and 35.3 percent (122-308) on 3-point attempts. He scored a career-high 30 points in his first game back from an ankle injury in early February.
Smith earned WAC Freshman of the Year honors and Freshman All-American honors as one of the nation's premier frontcourt players during the 2009-10 season. He ranked as one of the top 12 overall nationally in field goal percentage and the NCAA's 50th highest scoring freshman.
During his sophomore season, Smith averaged 11.7 points and 8.1 rebounds along with a block and steal per game. He earned second-team All-WAC honors and became a dominating rebounding force down the stretch, including a 20 rebound effort in his final game in a Bulldog uniform.
George and Smith are just the latest former Fresno State standouts to star in the professional ranks as the 28th and 29th former Bulldogs to go on to play in the league.
The Associated Press and NBA.com also contributed to this report.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" --- Fresno State men's basketball mini-plans - the Holiday Gift Package (starts as low as $35) and the Mountain West Mini-Plan (starts as low as $85) - are on sale now by calling 559-278-DOGS or visiting www.gobulldogs.com/miniplan. The flagship radio stations for Fresno State men's basketball are KMJ 580 AM (English) and ESPN Deportes 1600 AM (Spanish).
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