LAS VEGAS – Fresno State — with time slowly fleeting and lost late opportunities — was within grabbing distance of a postseason upset over second-seeded Colorado State.
But in a game where a possession or two – and a better percentage at the foul line – could have made all the difference, the script stayed true to the seeding.
Colorado State pulled away from No. 7 Fresno State in the final minutes its 67-61 Mountain West Conference Basketball Championships quarterfinal win on Wednesday, denying the Bulldogs an upset that seemed plausible even in the final possessions.
“In our locker room, we weren’t an underdog. We were playing as well as anybody coming down the stretch,” guard Tyler Johnson said. “We had won more games in the last second half of the season than we did the whole first half.”
Colorado State was without Dorian Green, the Rams’ second-leading scorer, but saw reserves Jon Octeus – starting in place of Green – and Daniel Bejarno step up for the second half.
Octeus finished the night with nine points and three assists. Bejarno contributed eight points and five rebounds.
“Coach talks about how anybody can have a big night,” Johnson said. “I mean, they’re on the scouting report. You see that everybody has talent at this level.
“I mean, they’re not on that team for no reason. Fortunately for them, some guys stepped up when Green was hurt.”
Rams senior Colton Iverson, the Save Mart Center backboard-breaking senior who led the conference this season in rebounds per game (10.4), was held to seven points and five rebounds.
Iverson was a non-factor in much of the first half after getting into early foul trouble.
“He’s a load to slow down, to begin with,” Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said.
“We know they’re a different team with him not being on the floor. … We were able to do that early in this ballgame, got him off the floor early in the game. But I’ll give him a lot of credit. He’s one of the best big man passers, not only in our league, but in the country. He finds guys.”
Wes Eikmeier scored a team-high 18 points for the Rams, who trailed 29-26 at the half..
Marvelle Harris and Jerry Brown each netted 12 points for the Bulldogs, who finished the season 11-19 overall.
The won its final two conference games against Air Force and UNLV (at the Thomas and Mack Center) to earn them the seventh seed in their first Mountain West tournament.
The Bulldogs, who came back from a nine-point deficit to bring the score to 55-53 with 2:41 to play, shot 13-of-23 from the free throw line.
“We shot 56% from the line. We’ve been pretty consistent,” Terry said. “We’ve made those over the last three ball games. It’s given us great momentum in terms of opportunities to win ballgames.
“But we knew today we had to make free throws. We had to win the effort game in terms of the 50/50 plays. For the better part of the game, we did that. We came up a little short at the free‑throw line.”