Questions abounded heading into Wednesday and still remain.
But for at least one night, Fresno State mostly had answers.
When a double-digit lead started to go away in the second half, with Air Force belatedly attacking the rim and taking advantage of what has been a weak spot, the Bulldogs got big shots from Tyler Johnson, Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero to give them just enough room to get to the line and secure a 71-65 victory in a Mountain West Conference game at the Save Mart Center.
With the lead down to six for the first time with 11:38 to go, Johnson got fouled driving to the basket and made his free throws, the eighth and ninth of 10 in a row in the game.
The lead at seven, Harris hit a 3-pointer.
And with the lead at five, Guerrero knocked down a 3.
The Falcons, who had struggled in the first half, hitting 5 of 25 shots with six turnovers, sliced the Bulldogs up a bit in the second. They hit 16 of 24 shots (66.7%), chipping away while trying to make a run.
But still Fresno State (8-8, 1-2 in the MW) walked away with its first conference victory of the season while snapping a five-game skid against Division I teams.
"It's just growing up, a team growing up," said Johnson, who tied a career high with 25 points and also led the Bulldogs with eight rebounds and four assists.
"We've been in so many close games, especially throughout the time I've been here. I know Marvelle was a part of it last year. Eventually you just start to grow up and you understand how to handle those situations. Lots of times with young players it gets so close they might tense up a little bit. They want to do the right thing, but they're so tensed up and they're not just playing. I thought we did a really good job of just playing, kept playing the same way that got us the lead."
They needed just about every basket, given the way the second half went. Not only did Air Force (8-6, 2-1) shoot a high percentage, scoring 22 points in the paint, they outrebounded the Bulldogs 16-6, with seven at the offensive end.
The Bulldogs, who for the past two years under coach Rodney Terry have struggled to get through and win close games, kept matching play for play. They attacked the Falcons' matchup zone and got some good shots, making some and getting to the line some more.
"They're a hard team to play against," Terry said. "They're the kind of team that makes you have to make shots and if you just settle for jump shots, you're playing right into their hands.
"You have to put your will in terms of trying to be a driving team on them. You can't just go out and settle for jump shots and our guys did a good job of really trying to get to the Mountain West (logo in the lane), and we shot 32 free throws against a team that plays a matchup zone. That's pretty efficient."
Guerrero finished with 18 points, hitting 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute. Harris had 13 points, nine coming in the second half.
The Falcons got within 65-61, but Guerrero hit a free throw and the Bulldogs got a stop.
"We just kept playing," Johnson said. "We kept driving. We didn't stop and try to hold the ball and get timid and shy away, because I've been a part of games where that's exactly what happened. It's a four-point game, it's a minute left, and we take our foot off the gas. ...
"I thought we did carry over the momentum from the second half of that Boise (State) game as far as offensive intensity, as far as defensive intensity over into this game. Our shots weren't really falling in the first half as much, but that's a testament to just keep playing. Your shot is not falling, but what are you going to do? Are you going to substitute your offense for your defense and stop playing defense so you can try to start scoring or whatever? We didn't do that. We kept playing."
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