With the Western Athletic Conference Tournament a mere week away, Fresno State needed to be the stronger of two Bulldogs in the contest against Louisiana Tech, Thursday.
Unfortunately for Fresno State, a late second-half comeback wasn’t enough as it suffered a 75-70 loss.
In front of one of the biggest crowds at the Save Mart Center since 2009 (10,012), the ‘Dogs shot a measly 25 percent in the first 20 minutes of play, hitting only seven of their 27 shots from the field.
La. Tech worked out of a 2-3 zone defense and it proved to work against the poor shot selection and lack of size of Fresno State. The Bayou Bulldogs were on point from behind the arc hitting 5-of-9 in the first half.
They also shot a devastating 60 percent from the field, in the first half, drilling 15 of their 24 shots.
A surprise performance from Jonathan Wills kept Fresno State relevant in the first half, but his efforts proved futile as the ‘Dogs trailed by as many as 22 points, which is the biggest deficit they have seen all season.
“We can’t let our defense dictate our offense, and that’s what was happening in the first half,” Wills said. “Our shots weren’t falling and we were playing defense just to get back on offense, and we can’t do that. We aren’t going to beat anyone in the country playing like that.”
The ‘Dogs made their way to the locker room trailing by 16 points.
The second half was a different story as Fresno State came out gunning for La. Tech, reducing the lead to eight in the first five minutes after the break.
The ‘Dogs drained five of their first six shots, and simultaneously invigorated a seemingly dead crowd.
Kevin Olekaibe, in the wake of a career-high 43-point game last week, was held to just one point in the first half. He relied on his teammates to spread the floor and make the shots that La. Tech was forcing. Tyler Johnson showed up in the second half and contributed a good supporting 10 points.
Coach Rodney Terry said they were not reliant on Olekaibe to score 20 or 30, and he feels they have some of their best games when the team has balanced scoring across the board.
“We don’t go into any game putting pressure on him saying that he has to score ‘X’ amount of points for us to be successful,” Terry said.
Despite the second-half surge, which brought the ‘Dogs within four points mid-way through the half, they could not silence the loud bark of the Bayou Bulldogs and were unable to secure the win.
The Bulldogs outscored La. Tech in the second half, nearly doubling their points, but an inconsistent effort to shorten the lead was too overwhelming to secure a win.
“This time of year you can’t throw away 20 minutes of a ballgame, where you don’t execute,” Terry said. “And that’s what we did.”
Fresno State will host New Mexico State at 7 p.m. Saturday in their final home game of the season.