Fresno State vs. Saint Mary’s: Game Preview, TV & Radio Schedule, Live Streaming, Odds, More
Bulldogs out to score first marquee victory of the season
Can Fresno State contain Jordan Ford?
WHO: Fresno State (2-2, 0-0 MWC) vs. Saint Mary’s (3-1, 0-0 WCC)
WHEN: Wednesday, November 20th — 8:00 P.M. PT / 9:00 P.M. MT
WHERE: Golden 1 Center — Sacramento, Calif.
SERIES RECORD: Saint Mary’s leads, 19-17
ODDS: Saint Mary’s -8, per KenPom
PREVIEW: Fresno State heads west to the state capital Wednesday night to take on Saint Mary’s at the Golden 1 Center, home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. As if playing in a professional arena weren’t enough, this game is the Bulldogs’ best chance at a marquee non-conference win.
But it certainly won’t be easy.
The Gaels are coming into this game on a 3-1 start, including a nail-biter overtime win against Wisconsin and a head-scratching loss to Winthrop. But they’ve rebounded well over the past two contests, beating Long Beach State and Cal Poly by 18 and 31 points, respectively.
Those victories weren’t enough to keep Randy Bennett’s team from falling out of the national rankings after last Monday’s loss to the Eagles, though. Despite the setback, the Gaels should still be one of the top mid-major teams in the country and are a good bet to back in the Top 25 sometime soon.
Saint Mary’s senior Jordan Ford, one of the top players in the country, has been as good as expected in the early going. The star guard is averaging 19.8 points per game—though that number is weighed down by a paltry 10-point performance against Long Beach State in which Ford took a backseat on offense. He scored over 20 points in each of the three other games.
Malik Fitts, the second half of the Gaels’ one-two punch, comes in averaging 13 points and six rebounds nightly. Fellow starters Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, and Matthias Tass have also been serviceable in their respective roles of distributor, shooter, and post presence.
Fresno State, like their opponents, is entering Wednesday’s matchup on the heels of a big win, albeit against Division II school Cal State San Bernadino. Prior to that, the Bulldogs went 1-2 in their first three games. Coincidentally, that win actually came against Winthrop, the only team to best Saint Mary’s so far. The other games didn’t go so well. Oregon proved to be a class above Fresno State in the opener, while WCC foes San Diego scraped out an overtime win.
After scoring just two points against the Ducks, freshman Jarred Hyder exploded onto the scene with a 26-point game against Winthrop. He followed that up with 23 points against the Toreros, before sitting out the game against CSU San Bernadino with a hip flexor injury.
Aside from Hyder, Fresno State has spread the scoring out, with four other players averaging at least eight points per game. Big man Nate Grimes has performed well against preseason expectations, averaging 10.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the early going.
Aguir Agau is averaging over 10 points off the bench, while starters Orlando Robinson and Mustapha Lawrence have also contributed significantly for head coach Justin Hutson.
But the big issue has the play of Noah Blackwell and New Williams, who were expected to take up the mantel left behind by Deshon Taylor and Braxton Huggins. Blackwell missed two games to a suspension and has shot under 25% in the other two. Williams’ shooting has been even worse, with the guard firing at just a 16.7% clip so far.
With or without Hyder, Fresno State is surely counting on those their returning guards to turn things around. It’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for Blackwell and Williams to finally make a positive impact on this season than Wednesday night’s nationally-televised tilt with one of the nation’s premier mid-major programs.
Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.