Fresno State overcame a poor first half that saw the Bulldogs shoot just 38.1% from the field. After taking an early 9-4 off two Mychal Ladd 3-pointers, the ‘Dogs struggled on both sides off the court falling behind 11-10 to Boise State at the 12:38 mark of the first half. FS didn't regain the lead until Paul George's 3-point play gave the ‘Dogs a 68-66 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the game as they won their conference opener in front of an announced crowd of 7,983.
"It was probably the first time that this group just found a way to win," said Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland.
George didn't make his first field goal until three minutes into the second half but he led the late charge knocking down two critical three-point plays in the final minute. After BSU tied the game at 68, he attacked the basket for the second consecutive possession scoring the game winner with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
"I didn't want to settle for a shot, we're down, if I would've missed it kind of would've taken the team in different direction," George said of shot selection in the final minute of the game. "I wanted to attack, get to the basket and see what happens from there."
Boise State's La'Shard Anderson's desperation three fell short and was rebounded by Greg Smith as the final buzzer sounded.
"Paul made two huge three-point plays," said Cleveland. "But more importantly we got a stop. We got a stop when we needed to get a stop."
"That's what college basketball is about great way to open up the WAC," said George.
The Broncos led for ¾ of the game taking its largest lead at 10 with 1:34 remaining in the first half. Every time the Bulldogs made a run to cut the lead to one, the Broncos countered.
"I thought we made a good run in beginning of the second half to get within one," said Cleveland. "Then they had a run and got control of the game. I thought Boise did a great job controlling the tempo of the game. Both their guards handle the ball well, we felt like we needed to turn the tempo up. Our zone wasn't real effective in the half court but the zone press got them to hurry up and take shots probably quicker than they wanted to. That changed the momentum."
Boise State came into Saturday night not known as a 3-point shooting team. The Broncos were just 30.9% in 3-point shooting percentage and averaging just five made 3's per game. At the half, leading 35-27, BSU was 5-of-12 from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs didn't fair too well either hitting 5-of-18 from three but Ladd was a remarkable 4-of-7 making keys shots when needed.
"That's my role, that's what the coaches want me to do knock down shots when other players are not in rhythm," said Ladd.
Sylvester Seay and Smith added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Former Bulldog recruit Daequon Montreal led the Broncos with 24 points.
Fresno State next hosts Hawaii Saturday January 9 at 7 p.m. PT.
Fresno State's bench was outscored 33-1.
Saturday's win was the first win this season when the outcome is decided by five points or less. The Bulldogs are now 1-4 in those games.
Paul George did not commit a turnover for the first time this season in game where he played more than 30 minutes. In which, Cleveland chuckled, "We might need to throw a parade."
Fresno State out-rebounded BSU, 31-29.
The Bulldogs committed only nine turnovers, six came in the first half.
Paul George was 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
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