Marvelle Harris’ three-pointer missed at the buzzer as Fresno State lost its Mountain West debut in front of an energetic home crowd.
“We knew exactly what we were looking for,” said Bulldogs head coach Rodney Terry. “All KO (Kevin Olekaibe) needs is a little crack…Marvelle got a tough shot, but we still got another look.
“Win or lose, one night, you take it home, you flush it out. You got to come back to the drawing board the next day. We pride ourselves on our work ethic. Our preparation turns solely to New Mexico.”
The No. 25 ranked Lobos beat UNLV 65-60 on Wednesday night, and their home venue “The Pitt” will present another challenge for the ‘Dogs. Any remnants of a moral victory will be forgotten if FS doesn’t bounce back from this tough loss against a very good SDSU team.
“They’re a team that has tremendous versatility,” said Terry.
But the versatile Aztecs could not shake the Bulldogs. Fresno State used an 8-2 run to start the second half to get within a point of San Diego State before giving way to a 12-3 run by the Aztecs. The double-digit lead didn’t last as FS continued to rally behind solid efforts from Kevin Foster, Jerry Brown, and Kevin Olekaibe.
Olekaibe’s three-pointer gave Fresno State a 62-61 lead with 2:47 remaining. San Diego State struggled from the foul line hitting just 58.3% of their shots, which helped keep the ‘Dogs close down the stretch. However, Jamaal Franklin hit the two most critical foul shots that pushed the lead to the final margin.
The Preseason MWC Player of the Year led all scorers with 20 points and had a game-high 18 rebounds. But his most impressive contribution was arguably the most impressive play in Save Mart Center history. Early in the second half, with SDSU leading 40-34, Franklin purposely threw the ball off the rim and followed it up with a highlight dunk. The play ended up being No. 1 on Sportcenter’s Top 10 and rightfully so.
Foster led the Bulldogs with 18 points and Olekaibe added 15. Brown played a workmanlike 36 minutes scoring eight points and pulling in seven boards.
“I was really proud of the effort,” said Terry. “Our guys competed…that’s one thing I challenged our guys to do.”
Leading scorer Tyler Johnson left the game with a right ankle injury five minutes into the first half. He scored just two points and didn’t return to action. His status is day-to-day says Terry.
Fresno State fell behind early in the first half, 15-8, and it looked like the Aztecs were about to run away with the game. But Foster and Garrett Johnson finished consecutive turnovers with fast break points that capped a 9-1 run for the Bulldogs’ first lead of the game with just over seven minutes to go before half.
Coach Steve Fisher didn’t panic. He let his Aztecs play through, and didn’t call a timeout. SDSU quickly regained the lead and finished the half with a 17-10 run to lead 33-26 at the break.
Fresno State falls to 6-8 on the season and 0-1 in MWC play. The Bulldogs face New Mexico at Noon on Saturday.
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