Tyler Johnson honored as Bulldogs’ most valuable player

Tyler Johnson was named team MVP at Fresno State’s postseason awards banquet on April 15, 2013.

Fresno State guard Tyler Johnson, who scored a team-high 12.1 points per game and 58 assists, was honored as the Bulldogs’ most valuable player on Monday at the men’s basketball team’s annual banquet.

The other Bulldogs honored:

Outstanding defender: Jerry Brown III.

Outstanding rebounder: Kevin Foster.

Four-year Achievement and Commitment Award: Garrett Johnson.

Bulldog Award: Brad Ely.

Top free-throw shooter: Kevin Olekaibe.

Outstanding student-athlete: Braeden Anderson.

Outstanding service: Allen Huddleston.

Playmaker Award: Marvelle Harris.

Most improved: Tanner Giddings.

Bulldogs’ game plan didn’t count on a second Colorado State big playing that way

The game plan against Colorado State and, more specifically, its 6-foot-10 center Colton Iverson, was the same as it was the first two times Fresno State came up against them.

When he had the ball in the post, trap, and see if they could force him to pass out of the doubles or get him into foul trouble and off the floor for stretches. The Bulldogs did not have much success with that during the regular season — Iverson had double-doubles in both games, with 11 points and 13 rebounds in the game at the Save Mart Center and 12 and 12 when they played in Fort Collins, Colo.

It was different, but didn’t make a difference in the end result for Fresno State in a 67-61 loss to the Rams in the quarterfinal round of the Mountain West Tournament, Iverson scoring only seven points with five rebounds while spending extended periods on the bench in foul trouble. He played only 23 minutes, after averaging 31.4 in conference play.

“He’s a load to slow down, to begin with,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We pretty much had the same type of defensive set that we wanted to work with. We work with the baseline trap coming mostly from out guards, perimeter players, hoping to pick up a charge and get him off the floor. We know they’re a different team with him not being on the floor.

“We were able to do that early in this ball game, got him off the floor early. But I’ll give him a lot of credit. He’s one of the best big man passers, not only in our league, but in the country. He finds guys.”

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At Mountain West Tournament, key for Bulldogs could be Olekaibe’s passing, not shooting

Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe, left, drives in past UNLV’s Katin Reinhardt in the first half of their game at the Save Mart Center in Fresno Wednesday, February 6, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Kevin Olekaibe gets a chance to get home for the Mountain West Conference Tournament, not only to Las Vegas, where he grew up, but on Tuesday the Fresno State Bulldogs practiced at Cimarron-Memorial High, where as a senior he led the state and was fifth in the nation in scoring.

Surprisingly, his teammates did not make him sing the alma mater or the school fight song, the words to which are painted in big letters on one wall of the gym.

Olekaibe did not miss much during practice, which should come as no surprise, given the familiar surroundings. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 1,065 points in that senior year, averaging 35.6 per game. He hit 50 percent of his shots including 37 percent at the 3-point line.

‘’I still wish I could play back in this gym,’’ he said. ‘’There’s a lot of memories in here.’’

But with the Bulldogs opening the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Wednesday against Colorado State, Olekaibe knows that he does not have to replicate that senior season for Fresno State to have success in its rapidly-evolving offense.

Down the stretch, the player movement and the ball movement have improved dramatically, the result victories at Nevada, against Air Force and at UNLV, and losses to Boise State and Colorado State in which they scored 63 and 67 points, above their average of 58.1 in conference play.

‘’It’s much-needed. We needed it a lot sooner. But it’s better late than never,’’ guard Tyler Johnson said. ‘’Coach (Byron) Jones is always the one coming at halftime reading how many assists we have to how many turnovers and he always tells us when we have more than 15 assists, we’re a very good team.’’

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New Mexico, San Diego State sweep MW hoops honors

The Bulldogs’ Tyler Johnson was named All-MWC honorable mention.

New Mexico swept the top honors in Mountain West Conference men’s basketball with Steve Alford being named Coach of the Year and Lobos guard Kendall Williams selected as Player of the Year.

Fresno State junior guard Tyler Johnson was named honorable mention. No Bulldogs were picked for the three all-conference squads or the all-defensive team.

On the women’s side, Fresno State junior guard Ki-Ki Moore was named first-team All-MWC as well as Defensive Player of the Year. Senior forward Rosie Moult was named second-team All-MWC and to the all-defensive team, while junior guard Taylor Thompson and sophomore forward Alex Sheedy were third team.

Rounding out the All-MWC men’s squad are UNLV teammates Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett, also the Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year; and Colorado State teammates Colton Iverson and Daniel Bejarano, the MW’s Newcomer and Sixth Man of the Year, respectively.

San Diego State’s Chelsea Hopkins is the women’s Player of the Year with Aztecs coach Beth Burns earning her third MW Coach of the Year honors. San Diego State’s Courtney Clements, Wyoming’s Chaundra Sewell and UNLV’s Kelli Thompson complete the first team.

Bulldogs put shooting problems – and loss at San Diego State – behind them

New Mexico’s Alex Kirk reacts after scoring against UNLV in the first half on Feb. 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Fresno State coach Rodney Terry was running through the strengths of the New Mexico Lobos, who come to the Save Mart Center on Wednesday leading the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball standings.

There were a few of them, all posing big matchup problems for the Bulldogs. But after a woeful game shooting the basketball in a loss at San Diego State, of particular concern has to be the Lobos’ defense: They make you make shots, because they play a packed-in defense,” Terry said. “They protect the elbows and blocks, and they make you have to make shots.”

In that loss to the Aztecs, Fresno State not only didn’t do that they often weren’t close. The Bulldogs hit only 17 of 58 shots (29.3%) including 4 of 19 at the 3-point line (21.1. percent).

To make much of a dent in the Lobos, they are going to have to do better.

“If you sit there and dwell on (San Diego State) and you think about it, you’re definitely not going to make shots,” said guard Tyler Johnson, who led the Bulldogs with 14 points in the loss to the Aztecs, but hit only 5 of 15 shots to get there. “It’s hard enough knock down shots, but when you sit there and think about it and go, ‘Should I take this?’ Or think, ‘Is this a good shot?’ you really have no chance.

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VIDEO: Fresno State coach Terry, along with Olekaibe and Johnson after win over UNLV

Fresno State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Mountain West Conference this season, beating Nevada-Las Vegas 64-55 on Wednesday at the Save Mart Center.

The Bulldogs, who have wilted when challenged down the stretch for the past season-half and lost seven games this season by seven points or fewer, made plays this time, got stops this time. And they were rewarded.

Kevin Olekaibe led the Bulldogs with 21 points and Tyler Johnson added 15, leading four players in double-digits. And they held the Rebels to a season-low 55 points in nabbing a second conference win in eight games.

Coach Rodney Terry, Olekaibe and Johnson discussed the victory in a post-game press conference.

With close losses mounting, ‘Dogs to make change in handling late-game scenarios

Fresno State’s Tyler Johnson drives around Nevada’s Jordan Burriss in second half action on Jan. 19, 2013. (MARK CROSSE/THE FRESNO BEE)

There is a common thread that runs through just about every one of the close losses Fresno State has suffered over the past season-plus – the list of losses by seven points or fewer is now 17 deep, after a 68-61 loss on Saturday to Nevada at the Save Mart Center.

At the offensive end, the Bulldogs too often have come up with empty possessions, a combination of poor decisions, poor shot selection, poor execution. But Coach Rodney Terry suggested on Monday they will do things differently when in tight late in games in running their offense through Tyler Johnson, who has played some point in the past, but primarily off the ball this season at the three and two.

‘’He’s a dual threat. He’s a hard guy to guard,’’ Terry said, after practice as the ‘Dogs prepare for a trip to Boise State. ‘’You have to guard him for a shot. You have to guard him from attacking the basket. We started playing through him a little bit last year, at the end of last year and clearly identified that he’s a guy that can not only create for himself, but create for others as well.

‘’The other night when we played Nevada, we ran a set for him to have a scoring opportunity, and he created a scoring opportunity not only for himself, but he got Aaron (Anderson) a wide open shot. You want to play through your playmaker and a guy that can make plays and that’s what he does.’’

That shot did not go down, but in those late-game situations the 6-foot-2 Johnson likely will have the ball in his hands more and more. Read more →

Bulldogs’ Tyler Johnson looks good to go against Wyoming

Fresno State’s Tyler Johnson, left, tries to find an opening to the hoop during their game against UC Irvine at the Save Mart Center Saturday, December 15, 2012. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Fresno State guard Tyler Johnson, who has been out with a right ankle injury, was been able to get through practice and appears set to play on Wednesday when the Bulldogs host Wyoming in a Mountain West game at the Save Mart Center.

The 6-foot-2 junior, who was injured five minutes into a loss to San Diego State last week and did not play three days later at New Mexico, made it back with a lot of treatment, sometimes in odd places including the airport waiting for a connecting flight to Albuquerque.

”I was icing every chance I got, just a lot of treatment, stretching and range of motion things, ” Johnson said. ”When we went to New Mexico, I mean, an airplane definitely doesn’t help it being in that cramped space. I was icing when we landed in the airport when we were waiting for our next flight. Our trainer would go someplace with a bag and just as if they could fill it up with ice. It was probably one of the first times they heard something like that – a bag of ice to ice somebody’s ankle.”

Johnson is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and the only one averaging more than 10 points per game – he is at 10.1 – and his return should bolster a struggling offense and put a play-maker on the floor at the end of games, something that they obviously missed against the Aztecs and will need against Wyoming. The Cowboys have allowed opponents to hit only 39.1 percent of their shots and are leading the conference in scoring defense, with 54.7 points per game.

”He brings a lot of leadership to the floor for us,” Coach Rodney Terry said. ”He’s a guy that has a tremendous amount of experience out on the floor for us as well as obviously our leading scorer. We need him back int he flow of things.”


Bulldogs’ Tyler Johnson could be back for MWC games against Wyoming, Nevada

Fresno State guard Tyler Johnson, who did not play in a 72-45 loss at New Mexico on Saturday because of a right ankle injury, could be back when the Bulldogs resume Mountain West Conference play with key home games against Wyoming and Nevada.

The Bulldogs play the Cowboys on Wednesday and the Wolf Pack on Saturday, both tipping at 7 p.m. at the Save Mart Center.

‘’We hope to have Tyler back,’’ Coach Rodney Terry said. ‘’That’s the plan. If he continues to work the way he’s working now getting that ankle back right, hopefully we’ll have him in some capacity.’’

Johnson likely will test the ankle in practice on Monday or Tuesday, Terry said. The junior injured it landing awkwardly when chasing a rebound against San Diego State in the Bulldogs’ conference opener.

Wyoming is 1-1 in the Mountain West, losing its opener to Boise State on a last-second shot before winning 59-48 on Saturday at Nevada. The Wolf Pack is 0-2, dropping games at Air Force and to the Cowboys.

Fresno State likely to be without two starters at New Mexico

Fresno State will be without one starter and is very likely to be without a second on Saturday when it tries to take down No. 25 New Mexico.

Forward Kevin Foster, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points and had seven rebounds in a loss to San Diego State, returned home to Florida after the death of his grandfather and will not make the trip to Albuquerque. And guard Tyler Johnson, who suffered a right ankle injury in that game, is unlikely to play.