The Fresno State Bulldogs had been competitive in spurts of their first two conference games, but were ultimately outmatched by UNLV and Boise State. In Wednesday’s game versus Air Force, the Bulldogs got off to an 18-7 lead after the first 10 minutes. Head coach Rodney Terry needed his young team to come through for a full 40 minutes to come away with the win.
Each time Air Force made a run, the Bulldogs answered. The Falcons cut the lead to six points or fewer three times over the next 30 minutes and had made it a two possession game with just two minutes to go. Fresno State point guard Cezar Guerrero pulled up for a 3-pointer to extend the lead to nine and made 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal the game.
“Our guys, they finished possessions tonight,” Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. “I told them going into the game, it didn’t have to be perfect, but we had to have energy and we had to have urgency.”
In both the low scoring first half (24 percent combined shooting) and the second half shootout (64 percent), the Bulldogs were able to rely on Tyler Johnson. Johnson surpassed 20 points in his second game in a row since returning from injury, finishing with 25 points and 8 rebounds. He was also a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Johnson had been limited to 8.5 points in his first four games back.
“Tyler’s played hard from the time that he’s been back,” Terry said. “It’s just a matter of getting into a flow from an offensive standpoint. He’s been able to do that the last two ballgames.”
Gurerrero added 18 points for the ‘Dogs and Marvelle Harris had 13. The more experienced players have elevated their game in conference play while freshmen Paul Watson and Karachi Edo have struggled to adjust and Emanuel Owootoah has found himself out of the rotation.
“I spoke with those guys a couple days ago after our trip back from Boise," Terry said. "Being a young player is hard... The biggest thing that guys have to learn… is the urgency that you have to play with.”
Wednesday’s game was a reminder that the grind of conference play goes both ways. Air Force entered the game at 2-0 with a win at UNLV while Fresno State was 0-2 with a double digit loss to the same UNLV team at home.
Fresno State next takes on the Colorado State Rams on the road. The Rams also got their first win of the season on Wednesday, 66-64 at San Jose State. The two teams will tip off Saturday at 6:00pm PT.
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