"It's fun to win close games," Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said after his first victory in a road opener since the 2006-07 season.
"We shot the ball better tonight and when we switched defenses, it disrupted their attack. NAU is a great basketball team and I am happy we found a way to finish it tonight."
Fresno State jumped out to an 11-5 lead then pushed the lead to double-digits on Ned Golubovic’s three-pointer midway through the first half at 19-9 on Tuesday night in a soldout J.C. Rolle Activity Center. But Northern Arizona quickly stormed back with a 10-0 in just over three minutes to tie the game.
Sylvester Seay broke the run with an attempted tomahawk slam that somehow dropped in as he was fouled. He missed the free throw but the ‘Dogs got the rebounded and Paul George drove for a layup with 6:38 remaining in the half to push the lead to 23-19.
NAU would go on a 12-3, the ‘Dogs only points came on a 25-foot Steven Shepp three-pointer to tie the game at 26. FS would answer with a mini 6-0 run to take the lead at 32-31. Trailing by one with :10 seconds to play before the half, Greg “JuJu” Smith hits a 12-foot baseline jumper to give the ‘Dogs a 36-35 at the break.
Greg made a huge play at the end of the first half," said Cleveland.
Seay took over in the second half scoring 14, including nine of the Bulldogs’ first 11 points of the half.
After NAU took an early 37-36 lead, Seay hit a three to put the ‘Dogs by two. NAU answered with a driving layup on a broken defensive play and a pair of free throws to take their last lead of the game. Seay tied the game with a jumper that sparked an 8-0 that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
"Ves is capable of a night like tonight any time he takes the floor," sophomore forward Paul George said. "That's the Sylvester we need and are a much better team when he performs like tonight."
The game got sloppy with a series of turnovers and missed shots by both teams. Both teams shot less than 42% from the field. But the ‘Dogs shot better from the free throw line down the stretch (making 9-of-11 at one point) but still was under a 70% clip.
The Lumberjacks closed the gap to two points at the 2:53 mark on an Eric Platt three-pointer. But Seay would answer again with a key put-back off a Mychal Ladd missed three. George would add a free throw and Smith would put the game away with his third field goal of the game at the 1:43 mark giving the ‘Dogs a 63-56 lead. Smith finished a perfect 3-of-3 from the field; he has yet to miss from the field this season.
Fresno State improves to 2-0. The ‘Dogs continue to road trip on Thursday in the Emerald City versus Seattle. The Bulldog Sports Network will televise the game.
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