Fresno State Bulldogs · Sports

Dominant showing sends ‘Dogs to title game of The Basketball Classic

It’s not the NCAA Tournament, but Fresno State now has a chance to be one of the few teams in the country to end the season with a win. 

That comes courtesy of Monday’s dominant win over Southern Utah. The Bulldogs won their semifinal game of The Basketball Classic 67-48, punching their ticket to the championship game on the road against Coastal Carolina on Thursday. 

Outside of the first five minutes when the Bulldogs’ early 6-0 lead was quickly matched by the Thunderbirds – tying up the game for a brief moment – Fresno State’s win was never in question as they prevented the Thunderbirds from taking the lead even once. 

“Very impressed with our focus,” said Head Coach Justin Hutson after the game. “That team’s a very good offensive team. All three of these teams that came in here are very good offensive teams – Mountain West caliber offensive teams, maybe not defensive teams, but offensive teams. They averaged 79 points a game, had a hard time getting to 50, and that was because of our focus.” 

Fresno State’s commanding victory was fueled by two factors above all else: stifling defense and success from three point range. 

The ‘Dogs held Southern Utah to 31 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent from deep. 

On the other end, the Bulldogs went 11-21 from beyond the arc, led by three each from guards Destin Whitaker and Jordan Campbell. 

Fresno State let off the gas over the final five minutes, but the ‘Dogs led by 27 deep into the fourth quarter

Star forward Orlando Robinson was the best player on the court yet again in what might have been his last game at the Save Mart Center, pending his decision to declare for the NBA Draft. 

Robinson led with 20 points and 7 rebounds, and after the game he spoke about what these extra games at home have meant to him. 

“It felt great just being able to perform in front of Fresno – love Fresno, and just being able to play with my team is a great feeling,” Robinson said. “These games and this tournament was a blessing for me.” 

Following the championship game, Robinson will hire an agent and start the pre-draft process. He will have up to 10 days before the June 23 draft to withdraw if he chooses to return to Fresno State for his senior season. 

In the meantime, Robinson and the Bulldogs improved to 22-13 with the win and will face the 19-13 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Thursday.

Photo: Fresno State Athletics

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.