Fresno State guard Cezar Guerrero looks for an opening during the ‘Dogs’ victory over the Air Force Falcons Wednesday at Save Mart Center. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
March Madness has officially begun for head coach Rodney Terry and the Fresno State men’s basketball team, and Wednesday proved that.
Down by one point with 10 seconds left in Wednesday’s contest, Air Force forward Hayden Graham fired a shot from behind the arc. But it bounced off the rim, and his teammate Marek Olesinski grabbed the rebound and attempted a layup — only to be denied by the ‘Dogs’ Julien Lewis.
Bulldogs forward Paul Watson would come away with the loose ball, and guard Marvelle Harris sunk one of two free throws with a few seconds remaining, and that was it. In front of its final home crowd of the season, the Bulldogs held on for the 68-66 conference win over the Falcons (13-16, 6-12 MW).
With the win, the ‘Dogs have clinched a first-round bye for the Mountain West Championship Tournament next week in Las Vegas.
“I give our guys a lot of credit because they hung tough,” Terry said. “They could’ve folded, but they stayed together and trusted one another. This one wasn’t easy. Our league this year has been really good from top to bottom, and we knew tonight it was going to be a 40-minute game.”
The Bulldogs (15-15, 10-7 MW) built a 15-point lead but saw it nearly wiped out as Air Force would go on a 17-3 run to cut Fresno State’s lead to 43-42 near the halfway point of the second period to set up the dramatic ending.
Fresno State forward Alex Davis was honored before Wednesday’s game as part of Senior Night festivities. Davis, a 2015 All State Good Works nominee for his involvement in the community, scored six points and posted eight rebounds in his final game at the Save Mart Center.
“I just wanted to come out and leave it all on the floor for the guys,” Davis said. “With it being Senior Night, I had a lot of emotions built up, but I just wanted to stay focused because we had a task at hand that we needed to accomplish and that was win this game.”
Point guard Cezar Guerrero’s 18 points and Lewis’ 17 led the way for the Bulldogs. Paul Watson and Marvelle Harris had 10 points each and combined for nine boards.
Fresno State closed out the home season with an 11-3 record at home this year, and after the game, Terry went to the middle of the court and thanked the fanbase for its continuous support this season.
“Double-digit wins in this league is pretty good,” Terry said. “We had great support here at home all year long. It’s a major deal because we don’t get that done without the Red Wave being out here and supporting us. I thought we did what we needed to do at home this year in conference play.
“In this league, you have to have a home court, and our home crowd really willed our guys to victories, including tonight. They’ve meant a lot to us, and they’ve been the difference for us this year.”
The Bulldogs close out the regular season Saturday on the road at conference-leader Boise State (23-7, 13-4 MW).