With one minute left in the game, the Fresno State men’s basketball team was up by two, 56-54, against the Wyoming Cowboys. The Bulldogs called a 30-second timeout and drew a play to widen its lead.
As the play ensued, Fresno State guard Anthony Holland set a screen, allowing guard New Williams to move along the baseline. Williams received the ball on the left wing from guard Jarred Hyder and immediately shot a 3-pointer over Cowboys’ guard Jake Hendricks.
Before taking the shot, Williams missed three 3-pointers in the game. Still, he shot it with five seconds left on the shot clock and drained it, giving the ‘Dogs some separation to beat Wyoming, 63-55, at the Save Mart Center on Saturday afternoon.
After the game, Williams said he always believes in the “next play” mentality on his shooting.
“I know Coach (Hutson) believes in me, and he knows that I believe in me, so when they made that call, if I had it, I was going to shoot it and if I didn’t, I would have thrown it in,” Williams said. “I’m always embodying his next play mentality on my shooting as well. It’s always the next shot for me if the last shot went in or didn’t go in.
Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson said he knew Williams was the best guy to take the shot.
“We know New is very good at coming off that baseline. That wasn’t the first time he came off that baseline in that same exact spot that he’s hit that shot for us,” Hutson said. “So, he works on it, he’s confident, and I knew if he didn’t have that shot he would dump it in. And he was going to get in the paint and get somebody something.”
In the final home game of the regular season, Bulldog seniors’ Noah Blackwell, Nate Grimes and Williams were honored with their relatives and friends in attendance.
As the first half began, the Bulldogs struggled early after committing four turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and Fresno State trailed 15-7 after Hendricks made a 3. Nearly 30 seconds later, Blackwell drained a three-pointer in the left wing that sparked an 8-0 run, tying the game at 15.
The first half was a defensive battle for both teams in the final four minutes as the ‘Dogs scored only six points and the Cowboys scored seven. Wyoming ended the half with a 22-21 lead as guard Hunter Maldonado made a 3 at the buzzer.
Neither team shot well in the first half. The Cowboys made only 33.3 percent (9-of-27) of their shots from the field, while the Bulldogs only converted on 26.9 percent (7-of-26).
Fresno State had an early slump in the second half, and Wyoming went on a 7-0 run to lead 29-21. The ‘Dogs continued to struggle, and things didn’t change until guard Aguir Agau was substituted in at the 15-minute mark.
On the first play after a timeout, Agau drove inside and made a right-handed layup. His basket sparked a 9-3 run for the ‘Dogs as they tied it up at 38.
Agau only played during that stretch, but his plus/minus was a plus-13, meaning the Bulldogs scored 13 more points when he was on the court.
Hutson said Agau really energized the team in the second half.
“He does bring an energy level, there’s no question, and he’s been bringing it in practice. So, that’s exactly what we told him after the game,” Hutson said. “We appreciate the energy that he brought in, it really helped.”
Fresno State regained the lead, 43-41, with 10 minutes left in the game when Hyder drove from the top of the key for a layup. From that point on, Wyoming never led as the ‘Dogs held on for the victory.
Cowboys head coach Allen Edwards said he was proud of the team’s defensive effort, but felt like they made some key mistakes late.
“Getting ready for Fresno State, we knew about how they shot the three-ball and their inside play. Our game plan was to defend the 3-point line and be aggressive, blitzing the basketball, and I thought we did a good job of that,” Edwards said. “We got caught in some scenarios in the second half. We made some youthful mistakes down the stretch.”
The freshmen guards led the team in scoring for the Bulldogs as Hyder and Niven Hart each scored 11 points. Williams was second with 10 points, and Grimes added nine points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Bulldogs finished the season as the eighth seed in the Mountain West (MW) conference. Fresno State will now head to the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. to play the Air Force Falcons in the first round of the 2020 Air Force Reserves Mountain West Championships.