SAN DIEGO — A pulse clearly was there, but that's just a minimum requirement.
What Fresno State coach Rodney Terry wanted to see from the Bulldogs on Wednesday against No. 10 San Diego State at the Viejas Arena was effort, some toughness and a willingness to compete and knock a few bodies around, because they didn't put much of any of that into evidence the last time they were on the floor.
The Bulldogs did do that, as well as they have all season, particularly on the boards. But they fell short of what would have been a colossal upset, failing to match the Aztecs with some tough empty possessions at the offensive end through the final 5 minutes and falling 68-60.
"There were some things that we knew we could fix," said Terry, who had the Bulldogs in practice the same day they returned from a loss at Colorado State, where they were outrebounded 43-27 to stand at a minus-11.7 in conference play. "That was trying to be more physical, especially with our blockouts and our rebounding. One of the best rebounding teams in the nation, we outrebounded them by one. It was an effort game, no doubt about it.
"We got back from (Colorado State) and I thought our guys had good carryover from the past few days, emphasizing things that we need to continue to get better from here on out with. We did those things. Our guys were much more physical in terms of rebounding."
The Bulldogs (8-10, 1-4 Mountain West) were more of a lot of things that they haven't been consistently through the first two weeks of conference play.
Fresno State had that 38-37 edge on the boards -- the first time they were plus in rebounding against a Division I opponent since a Nov. 20 victory over Cal Poly.
And the Bulldogs competed, didn't back away, and led 46-44 with 10:51 to play when Allen Huddleston knocked down a 3-pointer as part of the program's bid for a first-ever road win over a top-10 team.
San Diego State came in with a 13-game winning streak, had won 37 in a row against teams from California and 80 of its past 87 on the home floor.
The Bulldogs made four baskets the rest of the way, losing one on a very close basket interference call with 1:02 to go that, had a tip by Alex Davis off a contested and missed layup by Marvelle Harris counted, would have made it a 4-point game.
San Diego State (14-1, 4-0) got away a bit on back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second half from Matt Shrigley and Xavier Thames, who hit 8 of 13 shots and led the Aztecs with 28 points.
The Bulldogs were not able to string much together -- they went through a stretch with two turnovers, two misses and a jumper by Tyler Johnson, who led the Bulldogs with 24 points and 11 rebounds -- but stayed within eight even with the Aztecs shooting 41 free throws (making 26).
The Aztecs' last basket came on a goaltending call with 8 minutes remaining and their final 13 points came from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs shot 38.2% from the field.
"We had a couple of chances. We just got a little bit antsy," Johnson said. "We were just so close and we could finally taste it. We just got a little antsy."
Said Terry: "There were a couple of possessions there where we got decent looks, we just didn't make shots. In that stretch there, I remember vividly we had a wide-open 3 by Tyler Johnson and Tyler has been hot for us. It just didn't go down. We had to go on to the next play."
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