Fresno State guard Julien Lewis (right) takes the ball inside the paint against defending Colorado State guard Daniel Bejarano during the ‘Dogs’ 71-59 loss to the Rams in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament on Thursday. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
LAS VEGAS – Labeled as a “dark horse,” the Fresno State men’s basketball team looked to live up to the moniker by making some noise in the conference tournament. Instead, it fell victim to third-seeded Colorado State for the third time this season.
With its leading scorer and first-team All-Mountain West guard Marvelle Harris held scoreless in the first half, the Bulldogs struggled to keep up with the hot, 3-point shooting Rams, who shot 8-of-13 from downtown in the opening period.
Down by 18 points at halftime, Fresno State needed a huge second period to come back against third-seeded Colorado State. It got within reach at one point, but it failed to execute when it mattered most in Thursday’s 71-59 loss to Colorado State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament.
“I think both teams played with great effort, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. “Anytime you have teams that play with [that] mindset, you’re going to have a large amount of fouls throughout the course of the game. It’s going to be a physical game.
“When playing a team like Colorado State, you have to exceed their effort. In the games that we’ve lost to them, they’ve won the effort battles, and they did again tonight.”
The ‘Dogs cut down the Rams’ lead to as low as six thanks to a Harris 3-pointer, but the Rams quickly pushed their lead back up to double digits. Moving forward, the ‘Dogs failed to get back within striking distance.
“Coming out of halftime, our mantra was to go out and play hard,” Fresno State senior Alex Davis said. “We had to come out fighting because we got ourselves down in a hole early. We missed some pretty good shots that we normally make. I think we did a pretty good job coming out in the second half, making our run, showing Fresno State is a great team and that we still got fight in us. I think we just couldn’t finish the plays we needed in order to win this game.”
Second-team All-Mountain West senior guard Daniel Bejarano scored a game-high 19 points for the Rams (27-5, 13-5 MW).
Cezar Guerrero scored a team-high 16 points for the Bulldogs before fouling out in the later minutes. Sophomore forward Paul Watson added 14 and six rebounds.
Colorado State’s top scorer and All-league forward J.J. Avila suffered an ankle injury and limped off the court in the first period. He did not return to the game.
A Bulldog suffered an injury as well, as Harris took a fall after a layup attempt and remained on the floor for a couple minutes, appearing to hit his head. He headed to the locker room with the help of his teammates. The junior finished with just four points, four rebounds and three assists.
The Bulldogs finished the year 15-17 overall and 10-8 in conference play.
“To win 10 games in this league says a lot,” Terry said. “This is a really good league top to bottom, and it will be from here on out. The Mountain West Conference is one of the best leagues in the country. For us to come back and have the perseverance to get 10 wins in this league and compete at the level we competed, with the start we got off to, I can’t fault our effort.
“I thought our guys really hung together. Can we be better as a team next year? Absolutely. If we buy into that and do that over the off-season, we’ll be good as anybody in our league next year. That’s the continued growth curve with our program and what we are.”