Too many times, Fresno State had been right there, close toward the end, only to fail to make needed plays at the offensive or defensive ends -- or both.
It happened twice just last week, with the Bulldogs losing in double overtime and then a single OT to push their losing streak to five games.
But on Wednesday night, against a Wyoming team that had played in six games decided by three points or fewer and won two of four of those in Mountain West Conference play, the Bulldogs made the plays in a 67-62 win at the Save Mart Center.
An 11-point lead got away and sophomore point guard Cezar Guerrero went to the bench after a fourth foul on a technical for taking an extra swipe at Wyoming guard Riley Grabau after a foul already had been called. But the Bulldogs relied on seniors Tyler Johnson and Allen Huddleston for a stretch in which the teams were separated by no more than four points.
Johnson hit a pair of free throws and a jump shot. Huddleston knocked down two shots, including a 3-pointer, and had an assist on a basket by freshman Paul Watson.
From there, the Bulldogs put it away at the free-throw line where they had struggled, hitting 1 of 4 in the first half, 2 of 7 at the 11:46 mark, 5 of 11 at 7:52 and 6 of 13 with 3:57 to go.
"The older guys, even Alex Davis, he came up and was like, 'Hey, we've already been through all this. Everybody else can freak out -- leave it to them to do all that. We just have to focus on what we need to focus on. Every rebound is ours. Every loose ball is ours and we're going to get the win,' " said Johnson, who had 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Fresno State (9-13, 2-7) was up 57-55 inside of 4 minutes to play, but this time wasn't teetering toward another rough loss. The Bulldogs got a turnover when Larry Nance Jr. was called for an offensive foul with 3:18 to play, and Marvelle Harris hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to four. They went back on defense, chewing seconds off the shot clock, giving Wyoming nothing easy. They did about as well as they could to keep the ball out of the hands of Nance, who scores 24.3% of his team's points, fourth-highest in the conference.
The teams exchanged empty possessions before Nance made it 59-57, scoring inside. But Johnson hit two free throws and Harris then forced a Wyoming turnover, bumping an already off-balance Josh Adams as he forced his way into the lane just enough to help him toward the ground and get called for traveling.
Watson had been 2 of 7 at the line but hit to make it 63-57. The Cowboys (13-7, 4-3) cut it to four, but Davis followed a miss by Johnson, tipping it in to provide room with 22.5 seconds left.
Davis, returning to the starting lineup after posting a double-double that included 10 offensive rebounds in an overtime loss at UNLV, finished 4 of 4 while scoring eight points with five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
"I was real proud of our guys," coach Rodney Terry said. "We knew coming into this ball game that we had to compete for 40 minutes against a team that we had to have extreme discipline on defense and really try to protect the paint -- those guys do a great job attacking the paint.
"We knew we had to really guard. This is a team that's not going to beat themselves -- you have to beat Wyoming. They do a great job of taking care of the basketball and they've won a lot of games to this point in league play similar to the type of game we had tonight."
Fresno State at Air Force
Wednesday: 6 p.m. in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Webcast/radio: themw.com/KFIG AM 940
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