With nine minutes left in the game, Fresno State guard Deon Stroud’s 3-point shot put the Bulldogs in the lead for their 61-54 win over Utah State Tuesday night in the Save Mart Center.
Stroud’s game-saving plays didn’t stop at his 3-point shot putting Fresno State in the lead. After ending the first half of the game with the Aggies in the lead 31-21, Stroud helped the Bulldogs claim victory on the floor as the top scorer of the game with 14 points.
In the last six minutes of the game, Stroud pushed his way through the Aggies scoring not only a layup shot but a free throw shot due to a personal foul call on Utah State.
“Kind of a surreal feeling, I’ve just been working on it a lot. Kind of exciting because we got the lead,” Stroud said.
Stroud explained his thoughts throughout the game when getting the shots in for Fresno State, noting that it was “not necessarily just confidence, but mainly just feeling.”
“Honestly just stay locked in. You know the opportunity came tonight, obviously, you know my teammates did a good job giving me the ball, even when I’m not willing to,” Stroud said.
Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson praised Stroud’s performance, noting his improvements in practice and games.
“Deon’s a confident young man. He didn’t need to make those shots to feel confident. He just needed some time,” Hutson said. “So now when you have somebody that can have the scoring ability that he has, you can leave him in the game longer.”
Stroud’s execution of the game helped his teammates on the court, the work showing in the final score. Hutson noted how Stroud’s performance today with his defensive plays and rebounds will give the Bulldogs more opportunities for points.
“Not only did he make shots, he took care of the ball, he made the right pass as you can trust him with the ball,” Hutson said
The first half of the game was a back-and-forth scoring match with the Aggies, but the Bulldogs eventually overcame a season-high 16-point deficit for the win. Coming back into the second half, the Bulldogs brought the intensity for the Aggies, pressuring on defense and offense.
The Bulldogs were able to achieve steals and rebounds. With 17 minutes left of the game, Isaiah Hill stole the ball from the Aggies offense and quickly turned it into a layup by Leo Colimero.
“Well, you’re excited,” Hutson said. “You’re definitely excited for what’s happening in a good atmosphere and making a great comeback against a really good team, trying to stay focused.”
“Everybody has coaches and players, especially the five that are on the floor, you have to really stay focused, and the job isn’t over,” he said.
The Bulldogs were down by ten points during halftime, Bulldogs with 21 and Aggies 31. Hutson said that maintaining the mentality to keep fighting was important to gain the winning lead.
Hutson said the ‘Dogs needed to improve their intensity and communication in the second half. “I thought early in the game. Our intensity was not there. Our communication was not there. Our intensity wasn’t there. And we just weren’t sharp,” he said.
“We weren’t being lazy. We were [a] step slow. We weren’t communicating the right way. And we gave us some layups. And we didn’t make too many changes, you know, until the course of the game, we made a few changes, but I thought we were just a little bit more locked in and what we were supposed to be doing,” Hutson said.
Anthony Holland also helped the Bulldogs to victory as the second top scorer of the game with 13 points. Holland’s three 3-pointers in the game put Fresno State further in the lead.
Holland’s 3-point shot by an assist by Orlando Robinson with just one minute left in the game left the fans and bench excited for overcoming the first half deficit. The 3-point shot secured the win for the Bulldogs over the Aggies.
“I wanted to try and stay focused and try to finish by hand, and especially extra focus when it’s winning time when our coaches say by trying to really focus and finish the game,” he said.
Robinson, who was recently named the Mountain West Player of the Week and recorded his third-straight double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. He achieved six assists and three blocks to help Fresno State to its third consecutive victory.
The Bulldogs are 3-1 in their MW conference season, and 13-4 overall riding on a 9-0 home game winning streak. They travel to Reno for their next conference game against Nevada on Friday, Jan. 21, with tipoff set for 8 p.m.