3 Quick takes: Linder not overly concerned with Robinson’s career night
FRESNO, Calif., -- Raise your hand if you are tired of hearing the name Orlando Robinson.
I see you Jeremiah Oden. Hunter Thompson. Jeff Linder.
Fresno State's 7-foot forward put on a show for the ages tonight, scoring a career-high 33 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in an 81-61 rout of the visiting Cowboys. The loss obliterated Wyoming's six-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs' game plan wasn't overly complicated -- to say the least.
Talks in Justin Hutson's huddles probably sounded something like this: "Hey fellas, throw it to No. 10."
That's it. And it worked to perfection.
Wyoming had no answer for the sophomore from Las Vegas. Wyoming threw Thompson and Oden at him early. That didn't work. Next, they tried to send help in the form of a guard, swatting at the ball. That failed, too.
Late, Linder deployed a semblance of a double team. All that did was lead to open shots for Robinson's buddies.
Robinson sank 12 of his 16 shots. He was also 8 of 11 from the free throw line. He isn't just a one-trick, hang-in-the-paint pony, either. He showed finesse from mid-range. Heck, he even hit a 3-pointer. Robinson was so dominant he didn't pick up his first foul until there was just 9:00 remaining on the clock.
He netted 48 points in two games against Wyoming.
"It's not like he was just posting up on the block all night," Linder said of Robinson. "He was hitting shots from 15 and 17 feet from basket. That makes it hard. What we try to do with (Hunter) Maldonado, he did tonight."
Linder says that sometimes it's by design that they let a guy "career" on them. The Cowboys did that against Omaha in the final non-conference game of the season. Wanjang Tut netted 27 in an 82-78 loss to the Pokes.
To a degree, they let that happen in Game 1 of this series. Robinson scored 15 before fouling out.
There was a major difference tonight though -- Wyoming was ice cold from the field. Like, 39-percent ice cold, including hitting just 5 of 17 3-point attempts, four of which came in the second half.
It was just one of those nights. One of those live-by-the-three nights. Only the Pokes did the opposite in this one.
"We got in the paint early and missed a lot of layups and wide open free throws," Linder said. "Right there, instead we're down 11 at half and shooting 33 percent. Of the 30 shots, 23 of those were pretty much all at the rim."
Linder acknowledged Robinson's big night but was quick to credit Fresno State's staff for figuring out a new rotation that included Christian Gray and Jordan Campbell. Neither played against the Cowboys Saturday. Gray netted 17 points and pulled down nine boards tonight. Campbell, who made just two 3-pointers in his three seasons at FSU, sank two in the win. He finished with eight points.
Yes, missed shots -- the high-percentage kind and from deep -- derailed the Cowboys tonight. But even if letting big guys go to work on certain nights is by design, this one exposed some serious warts without the services of their own forward, Eoin Nelson.
"Not every team in the league has an Orlando Robinson," Linder said. "From a talent standpoint, he has NBA talent."
True, but Utah State has a guy named Neemias Queta.
Colorado State has David Roddy.
San Diego State has Nathan Mensah.
Boise State, Wyoming's next opponent, has Abu Kigab.
This list goes on. And in other words, it's not getting any easier from here. Graham Ike can't be cleared soon enough.
Fresno State 81, Wyoming 61
Wyoming, as a whole, missed a ton of easy ones tonight.
Kwane Marble rarely did.
The 6-foot, 6-inch sophomore guard played with the big boys in the paint early and often in this one. He hit 6 of his 9 shots and even pulled down four rebounds.
While some guys are still trying to find their footing in the lane, Marble is turning it into an artform. He slashes, gashes and goes under and around the trees.
"As long as were getting quality shots, that's what I'm looking for," Linder said. "That gives us a chance to win games. In the first half we were getting quality looks, but just didn't make them. ... It's my job put them in the right spots, but players have to make them. That's basketball."
Tonight, that was Marble.
Those drives are often going to lead to wide-open looks on the outside for Marble's teammates.
If there's one knock on his 12-point performance it was getting to the free throw line for just one shot, which he missed. "Linder ball" is getting to the stripe and making shots, especially late.
That will change as this team continues to mature.
There's a lot to like about this young group.
Like Linder said tonight, "I don't think anyone expected us to go 26-1 this year."
One element of the Cowboys' game that has stuck out to me through nine contests is making the little plays. Winning plays, as Linder likes to call them.
Kenny Foster was a non-factor tonight on the scoresheet. He netted four points on 1 of 3 shooting. Saturday, he scored just five in a 78-74 win inside Save Mart Arena.
We all know, offensively, he needs to be better. We've seen what he can do. In early December he was named the Mountain West Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 21 points against Incarnate Word. He followed that up with a 19-point performance against Oregon State.
Tonight, he took a pair of charges. He basically stepped in front of a freight train the first time. The second was a violent elbow just outside the paint.
Maldonado took a charge, too. So did Oden.
When shots aren't falling, it's plays like this that help Linder sleep better at night.
"A lot of these nights it's, 'how are you going to find a way to win?'" he said. "You have to do it on the defensive end."
There was no answer for Robinson tonight. Wyoming was blindsided by a breakout game from Gray. Every time the Cowboys attempted to go on a run, the Bulldogs cut it short -- immediately.
There are going to be nights like this, but as long as guys are crashing to the floor for loose balls, taking charges and battling down low, you know it's not for lack of effort.
Every dog has its day. Today was for the Bulldogs.
"Give credit to Fresno State," Linder said. "They played with their back against the wall. I told our guys that's the league you're playing in. That has to be our mentality where we have our backs against the wall every single game. We learned it the hard way tonight."
Linder was an assistant coach at Boise State for six seasons before taking the head coaching job at Northern Colorado. He helped lead the Broncos to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths and the school's first MW title.
Monday, for the first time, he will face his former team when Boise State pays a visit to the Arena-Auditorium for a two-game series.
"We got to get better in a hurry," he said. "We have a really good Boise State team coming in seven days."
Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST