After a blowout win against Nevada on Friday night, Fresno State was back in the Save Mart Center on Sunday to take on the second-place team in the Mountain West, Wyoming (19-3, 8-1 MW).
After a tight game, the Bulldogs came up short, suffering a tough 2-point loss to the Cowboys by a score of 61-59.
Junior Isaiah Hill led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first half with 6 points, adding four rebounds and dishing out two assists. Hill shot 2-of-6 from the field in the first half.
Hill helped the Bulldogs improve their 3-point percentage right away as he hit a 3 to start the second half, bringing it to 28-27 with 19:10 remaining.
He had a career-high 25 points in the loss adding 4 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists in the tough loss. Hill was the only other Bulldog to hit a three other than Ballard, shooting 3-of-9 from downtown and 10-of-17 from the field.
Hill commented on his big offensive night and what it meant to him.
“Yeah tonight shots was just going in, but that doesn’t really matter whenever we come out with a loss,” Hill said. “I mean hats off to Wyoming, they played a great game. I thought we did some great things tonight. We just fell short. We got to figure out how to win these types of games.”
In a back-and-forth second half where Fresno State kept the score within reach the whole way. They had to look to Hill to keep them in the game with their normal go-to-guy having an off night.
Hill stepped up and decided to put the team on his back, scoring a jumper and then a 3 with 1:52 to go bringing the score to 53-49.
Sophomore Leo Colimerio started the offense for the ‘Dogs, scoring a layup, and then, big man Orlando Robinson got fouled and made a free throw to make it 3-0 with 18:34 to go in the first half.
Wyoming matched it with a 3-pointer by Brendan Wenzel and back-to-back layups by Graham Ike, making it 7-3 with 16:12 remaining.
There were three lead changes in the first half and two ties between the teams. But the Cowboys took a 4-point lead with the score at 28-24 going into halftime.
Robinson was right behind Hill, contributing 5 points, grabbing four rebounds and adding an assist.
Two Cowboys led the way in scoring for the first half, with Senior Hunter Maldonado and Wenzel each scoring 8 points.
Maldonado added three assists and three rebounds, and Wenzel added four rebounds as well.
The Bulldogs shot a rough 1-of-11 from the 3-point line in the first half which is just 9% – a percentage substantially worse from Friday’s game against Nevada where they shot 42% from beyond the arc.
Junior Ballard was the only player to make a three in the first half for the ‘Dogs. Fresno State also shot 10-0f-29 from the field in the first half.
The ‘Dogs took care of the ball in the first half, only committing one turnover and performing well defensively, forcing Wyoming into five turnovers.
After Maldonado hit two free throws, Hill came right back down and drained a 3 with 30 seconds left, making it 55-52.
Maldonado hit another pair of free throws, and Wyoming quickly moved to trap Hill seeing that he was the main scoring option.
Hill passed it off to Ballard who got fouled on a 3, hitting all three free throws making it a two point game with 23 seconds left.
After free throws by both Wenzel and Jeffries, Hill drove the length of the court to get a quick bucket with just 6.4 seconds remaining.
Drake Jeffries got fouled and hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining, bringing the score to 61-57.
A last second tip in at the buzzer by Ballard would be all she wrote for the Bulldogs, losing a close battle against the second best team in the Mountain West.
Although it was an off night for Robinson, he still managed to get a double-double, scoring 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the floor and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Head Coach Justin Hutson talked about Robinson’s off night and how he forced some shots.
“I thought he pressed a little bit and he was hobbled a tad bit but he was ready to play, but I thought he continued to battle defensively,” Hutson said.
“Got a couple of big rebounds, you know and we were trying to get him to go by that guy and hats off to them as a team defense they did a great job. Orlando’s not going to have many nights like that.”
Maldonado almost had a triple-double for the Cowboys, leading the way with 21 points, dishing out six assists and also grabbing eight rebounds. Ike contributed 14 points and eight rebounds in the win for the Cowboys.
Fresno State was out-rebounded by Wyoming on the glass by a margin of 46 to 28, with 32 of the Cowboys’ 46 coming on the defensive end.
“We have stats that we look at, the rebounds and the turnovers – we did great in one and not so good in the other. And the rebounds really hurt us tonight,” Hutson said.
Fresno State improved on their three point percentage in the second half, shooting 4-of-20 good for 20%, a slight improvement from their 9% in the first half.
Overall the Bulldogs shot 39% from the field shooting 23-of-59 for the game.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Fresno State, with a road matchup against Colorado State (17-3, 7-3 MW) on Friday, Feb. 11. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.