GAME NOTES: Taking part in their first Mountain West Conference Tournament, the Fresno State Bulldogs line up against the Colorado State Rams in the quarterfinals of the 14th annual event at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday afternoon.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs, formerly of the Western Athletic Conference, were beaten rather soundly on a consistent basis versus the rest of the MWC in 2012-13, but the team did show some signs of life in the final week by defeating Air Force and UNLV, the latter taking place in this very same building only four days ago. Nevertheless, the defensive-minded Bulldogs could cause Colorado State some issues if they are able to slow the pace.
As for the second-seeded Rams, they lost a total of just seven times this season under the direction of new head coach Larry Eustachy and only twice did the squad drop consecutive outings. The squad worked its way back into the national rankings for the first time in decades and also enjoyed a lengthy home-court win streak, finishing at 16-1 in their own building.
In terms of this event, CSU enters with a record of 8-12 and one crown resulting from a narrow 62-61 win over UNLV back in 2003.
Colorado State won both meetings during the regular season, the most recent coming on Feb. 27 by a score of 74-67 at home in Moby Arena which means the all-time series is now knotted at 11 games apiece dating back to the very first meeting played in Fort Collins in late 1964.
The survivor of this outing will take on the winner of the Air Force/UNLV battle in the semifinals on Friday for the right to compete in the title game on Saturday.
Fresno State failed to put a single player on any one of the three all- conference teams this season, mainly because the squad was far too inconsistent and didn't do much at the offensive end of the floor. The team scored in excess of 80 points only twice, those efforts coming against opponents such as San Diego Christian and Sonoma State. More often than not it was common to see FSU struggling to even reach the 50-point plateau, which is why Tyler Johnson is the only one scoring in double figures with 12.0 ppg. Allen Huddleston (9.7 ppg) and Kevin Foster (8.8 ppg) both had their moments, but the biggest disappointment had to be Kevin Olekaibe (8.5 ppg) who went from taking every kind of shot you could imagine last season, to becoming a reserve and an after-thought in 2012-13 as the team instead opted to focus on holding the competition to only 60.8 ppg.
The Rams were one of the most dominating interior teams in the nation this season, their hallmark being a tireless effort on the glass which resulted in a rebounding advantage of 12.4 per game. Doing much of the damage in the paint was Colton Iverson who led the team in both scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.7 rpg) as he shot a sensational 59.8 percent from the floor. Despite hitting just 58.8 percent of his attempts at the free-throw line, 54.9 percent in conference, Iverson still was there to represent CSU on the All-MWC First Team. Making the cut for the all-conference second team was Dorian Green who, while Iverson ruled the painted area, took charge on the outside by producing 13.1 ppg and a team-best 122 assists, not to mention giving the squad a presence behind the 3-point line. Pierce Hornung missed a couple of games but still responded with 9.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg as he was named All-MWC Third Team and First-Team All-Defense as well.
The Bulldogs somehow managed to catch lightning in a bottle more than once during the regular season, but you had better believe that Colorado State won't be caught off guard and will impose its will in the paint in this meeting.
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