The Fresno State men’s basketball team brought drama to the Save Mart Center during its 2019 home opener, as it defeated the visiting Winthrop Eagles.
Alongside the Bulldogs celebrating their season home opener, Fresno State welcomed back Bulldog Legend and current Los Angeles Clipper Paul George. During halftime, George’s No. 24 jersey was officially retired and hung up in the Save Mart Center’s rafters.
The City of Fresno also gifted George a proclamation document stating that Nov. 10 will forever be known as “Paul George Day” in Fresno. Then to cap off the entire ceremony, George was surprised by his teammates and members of the Clippers organization who had come to the season home opener in support of George’s accomplishments.
“Today I am more than grateful, honored and humbled to have this,” said George during a pre-game press conference. “[I[ wouldn’t have dreamed this in a million years. To come home to the Save Mart Center and to be able to see No. 24 up in the rafters, this is special.”
By the time the first full Bulldog timeout was called for at 14 minutes, Fresno State trailed by seven points against the Eagles. Fresno State would eventually bring the game back into reach with a jump shot from senior forward Nate Grimes, tying the Eagles at 22 apiece with 7:30 remaining in the first half. Winthrop answered back quickly, however, scoring a three-pointer, putting the Eagles back on top.
As time winded down past the four-minute mark, Fresno State found its groove, scoring nine consecutive points off of a few jumpers and free throws. At the end of the first half, Fresno State had the lead 35-30, shooting for 40.7 percent (11-27) and 23.1 percent (3-13) from the three-point range.
The second half saw the Eagles break out and score 16 consecutive points, putting themselves back in the lead 46-38. The Bulldogs were once again cold and needed to snap out of it. Grimes would get a basket off of a layup, and then freshman Jared Hyder came off of a fast break turnover to continue the scoring streak.
The Bulldogs would not catch up to the Eagles until the four-minute mark, tying the game at 64 apiece. Freshman Anthony Holland was the Bulldog to tie the game with a three-point, and then Hyder broke the tie with a three-point shot of his own.
Both teams went back and forth with three more ties right before junior Mustafa Lawrence took a wide open three-point shot at the buzzer to win the home opening game for Fresno State.
“It was a tough, hard-fighting game and to make that shot after all the fighting we went through the whole game, it felt good,” said Lawrence, recalling the final minutes following the game winner.
Fresno State ended its game against Winthrop shooting 48.1 percent inside the arc, 45.8 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Hyder was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, putting up 26 points in his first appearance in the Save Mart Center.
“Coming in as a freshman, sometimes it is hard to get comfortable right away. But my teammates do a great job in encouraging me everyday,” Hyder said.