Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dogs Return home-FSU v. MSU preview

Gut check time? You bet your a** it is!

State vs. Montana State Preview:

The Bulldogs return home to the Save Mart Center Wednesday night to host the Montana State Bobcats of the Big Sky Conference, tipoff set for 7pm. The Bobcats and Bulldogs played twice last season with the Bulldogs winning both, highlighted by an overtime win in Bozeman. The Bobcats are coached by Brad Huse who is in his second season at MSU.

Montana State coming in:

The Bobcats enter on the heels of a very impressive home win against Boise State 86-84. MSU led by 13 at halftime but did enough to hold off the Broncos. The Bobcats hold a 2-1 overall record with the 2 point win over Boise State, an 18 point victory over Long Beach State, and an 11 point road loss against UNLV.

They have 3 double figures scorers in their three games-Guards Casey Durham (13.3 ppg, 6 stls) and Carlos Taylor (13.7 ppg) and Center Divaldo Mbunga (10 ppg, 7 rpg). As a team they are averaging 75 points per game, shooting 46% from the field, and 32% from three point range.

What to expect from MSU:

The Bobcats feature a very experienced backcourt and will rely on them to carry a fairly young team outside of their trio of guards. They have a very defensive oriented system and coach Huse stresses excellence on that side of the floor. They also have a true center in Mbunga, a facet they have not been accustomed to. Expect him to cause problems on the interior for a thin and weak Bulldogs frontcourt.

Fresno State coming in:

The Bulldogs enter off of a painful and embarrassing loss down in Bakersfield at the hands of first-year D1 team the CSUB Roadrunners. Not only was it a road loss against a very winnable opponent, but during the game Junior Guard Dwight O’Neil fractured his wrist and will miss at least 8 weeks. Senior forward Alex Blair was limited because of a very nagging heel issue. Couple this with the indefinite suspension of Rekalin Sims and there is definite reason for worry in Fresno.

Guard Tyson Parker will give up his redshirt and make this his senior season as he felt it was best for the team. Both Tyson and Coach Cleveland wanted him to come in as an experienced guard in 08-09 to be a leader on what will be a young team, but he has elected to play now.

The Bulldogs are averaging 70.5 points per game, including 4 double figure scorers in Kevin Bell (19.3 ppg, 6 apg), now injured Dwight O’Neil (13.4 ppg, 2 spg), Eddie Miller (11.8 ppg) and Bryan Harvery (11 ppg). With the loss of O’Neil for an extended period of time, these three need to increase their scoring load, moreso from Miller and Harvey who will see increased minutes.

The obvious issues for the Bulldogs are the 7.5 rebound deficit per game, the 61% team free throw shooting percentage, and yielding 44.5% field goals to their opponents. The fact remains this shorthanded team needs to find ways to win and must do all of the little things to stay competitive. They must make a concerted effort on the boards and improve the overall defensive effort.

What to expect from the Bulldogs:

There isn’t really such a thing as a “must win” this early in the season, but the Dogs need a win to stop the bleeding not only following a 2 game skid, but to help ease the tension surrounding the program both on the court with injuries but also off the court with suspensions.

It is up to Kevin Bell and the guards to lead this team over the Bobcats. Coach Cleveland needs his team to come out with energy and show a spark on both ends of the floor, getting the positive vibe going. They will be forced to motivate themselves most likely, due to what will be a sparse crowd at SMC. This is a role where freshman Ned Golubovic could really help his team.

Its gut check time for the Bulldogs, how will these players and coaches react when their backs are inching ever closer to the wall?

MBs Take:

The Dogs find a way to win and grit one out, but they will struggle and may even be sluggish early, in fact I expect it. They key is to keep the deficit under 10 and not allow momentum to grow for the Bobcats.

Dogs win 71-66.

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