The first step will be to get Air Force to miss a few shots, which will not be easy for the Fresno State Bulldogs because it hasn’t been easy for any team that has matched up against the Falcons. They are leading the Mountain West Conference and ranked 17th in the nation in field goal percentage, have three starters hitting better than 51 percent of their shots.
After that, they can think about rebounding the basketball better and turning around a season-long soft spot that has cost them opportunities to win some basketball games.
The Bulldogs are last in the conference and 310th of 345 in the nation in rebounding margin at minus-4.8 per game, have been out-rebounded in 12 of their 17 games against Division I opponents and by 10 or more rebounds in eight of those games including a minus-19 in losses to UC Irvine (49-30) and Colorado State (40-21).
Like most things with this young group, which includes 7-foot freshman Robert Upshaw and 6-foot-10 freshman Tanner Giddings, it is a learning experience. Minutes on the court count.
‘’That’s something that, again, through experience, through guys getting stronger, we’ll be better in the future for,’’ Coach Rodney Terry said. ‘’Our young guys have learned to do a pretty good job on the first block out, but, I mean, there could be two, three opportunities on one possession to hold that block out.
‘’You play an older guy like (Colton Iverson, the 6-10 senior at Colorado State) the other night, you hit him one time, that’s good, but that’s not good enough because he’s not accepting being blocked out. You’ve got to hit him again, and you’ve got to hit him again before you finish the possession out.
‘’That’s the next progression for those guys. Tanner is doing a good job with his first initial thrust, but now he’s got to get to that second one, that third one. Rob is learning how to get to the first thrust. He hasn’t mastered that part yet. That’s a growth curve for him. You’re not going to turn and go underneath the basket and get rebounds at this level. You do that in high school, you can’t do that in college. You’re going to have to go, make some contact, and then go get that ball with two hands.’’
Last out, in a loss on Saturday to Colorado State at the Save Mart Center, Giddings did not have a rebound in 15 minutes and Upshaw had three in 18 minutes. Fresno State was led by senior Kevin Foster, with five.
The Bulldogs should have a chance on the boards against Air Force, one of three teams in the league minus in rebounding margin – the Falcons are minus-1.2 per game, Wyoming is minus-1.3 per game.
It can only help as they try to win a conference road game, something they have not done since winning at Jan. 6, 2001, at Louisiana Tech, the losing streak now at 16 games.
In the four Division I games Fresno State has held a rebounding edge this season (the fifth is a push at Washington State), they have won twice beating Cal Poly and Wyoming.