Marvelle Harris did not have the best of mornings. He was not feeling well, had a headache pounding away and popped some pregame aspirin. He was not sure what or how much he could give with Fresno State up against Nevada.
Turns out it was plenty, and the Bulldogs needed every bit of his point-a-minute performance in a 69-66 victory Saturday at the Lawlor Events Center that was a study in perseverance by the Bulldogs’ roster, one through 11.
They were on the road, their leading scorer was not feeling at his best, and then, boom, not 4 minutes in Julien Lewis took a seat after picking up two fouls. Two minutes later, Paul Watson was there, too, and they were joined by Alex Davis.
But with their second- and third-leading scorers on the bench, the Bulldogs got big minutes from reserves Darnell Taylor, Braeden Anderson and Karachi Edo and the whole time had Harris. The junior scored a career-high 40, including 19 of the Bulldogs’ final 25 in the first half when the lineup was a bit short offensively.
Taylor was taking only three shots a game, Anderson (who had not played in the past three games) not even one, and Edo six. Emmanuel Owootoah, the starting point guard, had been averaging three shots.
“Coach (Rodney Terry) told me I had to step up and be aggressive so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to take shots and once I felt I was hitting shots to keep knocking them down,” said Harris, who had scored 30 points in a victory at UC Irvine at the start of last season and passed that with a 3-pointer with 12:27 to go.
It didn’t take long for that feeling to take hold, but it did require a push. Harris turned the ball over four times early.
“The one thing I did say to him was, ‘You know what, you’re trying to pass the ball too much,’ ” Terry said. “He had those turnovers in the first half and he was being an unselfish player. He made a couple of drives and he tried to dish the basketball in traffic and they were tough plays and tough catches. I said, ‘You get that far, you have to look to score the ball. We need you to score the ball for us,’ and from that point on he was in attack mode.”
Harris scored 15 straight for the Bulldogs between a 3-pointer by Owootoah with 8:17 to go in the half and an offensive rebound and dunk by Anderson with 2:16 left asthe Bulldogs built a 36-28 lead. The Wolf Pack, even when he was surrounded by secondary scorers, couldn’t stop him.
“He wasn’t feeling well, but you couldn’t tell by the way he played,” Owootoah said.
Teammates offered plenty of encouragement.
“Once I got on the floor, I felt myself feeling good when I was shooting so I just kept shooting,” Harris said. “All my teammates kept yelling, ‘Shoot it, shoot it,’ and I was like, ‘Somebody’s in my face.’ They just said, ‘It doesn’t matter, shoot it,’ so that’s what I kept doing.”
But the minutes by Taylor, Anderson and Edo and another strong game by Owootoah — he did not have a turnover in 38 minutes and has only two in 135 minutes in Mountain West play — were as vital in getting the Bulldogs (8-9, 3-1) into a tie for second in the conference.
“We didn’t stop or change anything that we had been doing,” Terry said. “Those guys just came in and they held serve and they played. They played with a lot of energy. They played together. They did a nice job for us, they really did, and then we were able to get Alex and those guys back in the second half.”
And down the stretch, as the Wolf Pack (6-9, 2-1) made a run, they were all there. It went from 53-40 to 56-all in 9-plus minutes, Nevada tying it with 3:55 left.
Owootoah then nailed a 3-pointer from the baseline to make it 59-56.
“I was just playing, just getting lost in the game and my teammates found me,” he said. “I practice that 3 all the time, the corner 3, and I was able to get it today and I shot it with confidence and I made it.”
The Wolf Pack closed to 59-57, but Davis made a nice move in the post to push the lead back to four. The Bulldogs then hit 7 of 10 free throws in the final 36.9 seconds.
Harris, 14 of 23 from the field (5 of 8 on 3’s), had three of those free throws to close out a third Mountain West win decided by single-digits, two by three or fewer.
“Our chemistry, we’ve come a long way,” he said. “Fresno has been waiting for this a long time and we’ve been wanting to give it to them and now we’re finally doing it. We’re sticking together and staying the course. We started off slow, but everybody in the locker room, we believed we could win games and now it’s showing.”