Robert Upshaw and Tanner Giddings, the freshmen bigs at Fresno State, were on the short end of quite a few skirmishes against New Mexico center Alex Kirk and forward Cameron Bairstow in a 72-45 loss to the Lobos on Saturday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Kirk, a 7-foot, 250-pound redshirt sophomore, made eight of his 13 shots and grabbed 14 rebounds, eight on the offensive end. Bairstow, a 6-9, 250-pound junior making his fourth start this season, hit his first six shots of the game and finished with 16 points and five rebounds. And they were a big reason the Lobos were a plus-18 in rebounding margin (43-25), the largest they have had this season.
The second half was better than the first for Upshaw and Giddings, who were playing at a deficit in experience, size and strength. But both should have been very instructive for the Bulldogs’ freshman, Coach Rodney Terry said.
A stronger second half, by no means is enough to put things right, though.
‘’You know what it’s going to take? It’s going to take a whole season of that,’’ Terry said. ‘’That’s what those guys have been through. Guarantee you, you go take a look at Kirk, I bet he averaged three points a game, four points a game, as a freshman. I know the other kid, Bairstow, averaged two points a game.
‘’Go look at the other players in the league. (San Diego State wing) Jamaal Franklin, he averaged two points a game as a freshman.’’
Terry was pretty close – Kirk averaged 4.7 points in 15.0 minutes a game as a freshman, had only 21 points in his final 16 games and went scoreless in nine of them, while Bairstow averaged 2.6 points playing an average of 9.7 minutes in 31 games.
Franklin, who scored 20 points, had 18 rebounds and one crazy dunk when the Aztecs beat the Bulldogs in the Mountain West opener for both teams, played in only 22 games his first season. He averaged 2.9 points per game.
‘’We’re building with young guys right now and it’s going to take some time,’’ Terry said. ‘’It’s not going to happen overnight. And we happen to be playing in one of the best leagues in the country, that’s probably the best that’s ever been, and you just have to grow through it. You have to grow through it and that’s the challenge for us. I’ll say this, they’re getting on the job training right now.
‘’There’s no team in this league that’s playing with freshmen right now or relying on freshmen to win games. Look at it, they’re all older players and they’ve all been through the wars in this league. This league is a monster, and it will continue to be a monster.
‘’But our guys are getting a chance to learn on the job as we go through it here. I’m not making any excuses for them, but they’re going to be getting it all year and we’re going to be better for it.’’