The question could be asked, ‘What took you so long?’ Robert Upshaw, the 7-foot center at Fresno State, was grinding a bit trying to find a fit on the basketball court, after getting a late start due to a knee injury suffered the first week of practices back in October. That goes at both ends of the court, and beyond his statistics – 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game.
But the decision to sit Upshaw in a 49-36 victory over Wyoming at the Save Mart Center, did not just happen. Coach Rodney Terry pointed out that he had played the freshman only 24 minutes in a loss at New Mexico when the Lobos had a 7-footer on the floor in Alex Kirk and the Bulldogs were down a big man with Kevin Foster home in Florida with his family after a death in the family.
‘’You know what, he’s just a freshman, just a freshman and understanding the urgency of play at this time of year and what it means. That’s all,’’ Terry said. ‘’There’s nothing different from any other freshman that we have right now. They’re learning that whole process likewise and understanding every possession counts. I don’t care if you’re in practice or in games it matters this time of year.
‘’He is working through that. I think all of our young guys are working through that and understanding the accountability and what we expect and we’re not going to settle for anything less.
‘’The urgency needs to be there and the understanding, from the first day of preparation for that game. It doesn’t have to be just the day of the game, it’s everything that leads up to that and we’re going to go with the guys that we feel most confident in doing that. Guys show that every day in practice, who deserves to play and who doesn’t deserve to play. They earn that.
‘’Like I said last night, guys have to punch the clock every day. They do what they’re supposed to do and work the way we want them to work and have the urgency then they’re going to play. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s pretty simple.’’
The situation with Kevin Olekaibe was different. The junior guard was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season and played only 11 minutes, a career-low.
Olekaibe, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer last season with 17.8 points a game, has been struggling with his shot since coming back from an elbow injury. He has made only 32.1 percent of his shots and only 28 percent at the 3-point line. He was at 37.2 percent and 33.8 percent last season.
‘’I think K.O. is definitely giving us effort. He’s definitely trying as hard as he can,’’ Terry said. ‘’We wanted to take some pressure off him and I think that helped him in the rotation a little bit in terms of not putting so much pressure on himself to feel like he has to do more than he has to right now.’’