The Fresno State men’s basketball team sent 2016 off in memorable fashion as they defeated conference foe Nevada 77-76 in front of a lively Save Mart Center crowd on Saturday, Dec. 31.
The Bulldogs started the game with tough defense and fast-paced physical play. Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry switched up the rotation and subbed players in and out frequently to maintain the aggressive energy.
“Going into the game, we knew these guys could shoot from the perimeter,” Terry said. “They are not just shot takers; they are shot makers. We had to have as good of shooter defense that we have against these guys.”
The ’Dogs controlled the paint and scored points off turnovers to jump out 20-13 and a 33-32 lead at the half.
The second half saw the Wolf Pack get off to a great start and Nevada saw the game turn their way as they went up 61-51. The Bulldogs were able to regain momentum when senior forward Karachi Edo made two key back-to back plays, a putback dunk and an assist to junior guard Jahmel Taylor for a 3-pointer.
“We were saying ‘We are never out of this game,’” Edo said. “’All we have to do is keep playing Bulldog basketball and playing hard.’”
Trailing 57-63 with under 10 minutes to go, it was a back-and-forth affair and the game saw the lead change many times in the final minutes.
After not playing the entire first half, senior forward Cullen Russo entered the game and provided big plays on defense and offense. Freshman forward Bryson Williams played well for the Bulldogs coming off the bench scoring 12 points, eight rebounds and one steal.
With three minutes left in the game, Fresno State took a 69-66 lead thanks to a 3-point play from Taylor. A steal by junior guard Jaron Hopkins which led to a strong finish for him at the rim helped secure momentum. Senior forward Paul Watson also made two crucial free throws for the ’Dogs making it 77-73.
With 5.6 seconds remaining on the clock, Nevada’s Marcus Marshall hit a 3-pointer to make it 77-76. The Bulldogs were able to hold onto the lead as time expired and get its first conference win of the season.
Edo recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor, Hopkins and Watson each added 14 points.
“We won this game through communication,” Edo said. “We have to talk, give back and know who we have to guard. We were making shots; we just had to win it on the defensive end.”
The Bulldogs (9-5, 1-1 Mountain West) will host Wyoming (11-4, 1-1 MW) on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. The Cowboys are coming off a 75-81 road loss to UNLV on Saturday, Dec. 31 at the Thomas & Mack Center.