Fresno State beat a ranked team finally, knocking off San Diego State, which on Saturday was holding down the final spot in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. It was the Bulldogs’ first win against a Top 25 team since 2002, which is a long time and a lot of games ago.
For coach Rodney Terry, it was nine, as in 0-9, though there were some close calls in there with a two-point loss at No. 24 Texas, a three-point loss to No. 16 San Diego State and a six-point loss to No. 19 New Mexico in the 2012-13 season.
But the end result might be the least startling aspect in that 59-57 victory over the Aztecs considering the Bulldogs survived an 0-17 run that wiped out a sizable lead in a matter of minutes and left them vulnerable against one of the best in the nation at closing out games.
All it took was 4:38 and a 40-23 advantage was — poof — gone.
The Bulldogs haven’t allowed an opponent to go from 0 to 17 or 17 to 34 or 34 to 51 or 51 to 68 that quickly in … well, it hasn’t happened this season, anyway.
But after Julien Lewis hit a jump shot with 13:35 remaining to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 17 points, Matt Shrigley hit a 3-pointer, then Angelo Chol scored in the lane and Shrigley got to the rim for an easy basket and then knocked down another 3-pointer and Terry had to call a timeout.
That took all of 2:07, 17 down to seven.
The Bulldogs got a decent shot coming out of that timeout, but Lewis missed a 3-pointer and Karachi Edo could not score off an offensive rebound and the Aztecs were off again.
Aqeel Quinn made a jumper, then a 3 followed by another jumper, and the score was tied.
So what were the Bulldogs thinking as that lead got away?
“We just have to stop the bleeding, really,” said point guard Emmanuel Owootoah, who played 37 minutes against the Aztecs’ pressure and did not commit even one turnover. “We just had to find a way to stop it, get a stop and get a good possession and get flowing again.”
“Not really, but the urgency had to come back a little bit,” Owootoah said. “They made a push and they punched us in the face, and we just got back up from it.”
At that point the Aztecs had the Bulldogs in a tough spot, though, one in which they have not fared well even though they were on the home floor at the Save Mart Center.
San Diego State has won a mind-boggling 130 games in a row when leading with five minutes to go, not that they ever took the lead Saturday, but that certainly plays into things.
And the Aztecs had won 38 games since 2010-11 decided by six points or fewer or in overtime, which is the most in Division I and by winning percentage second to Memphis (34-11, .756) and ahead of Harvard (31-12, .721), Louisiana Tech (31-12, .721) and Loyola Marymount (33-14, .702).
“That five-minute stat they have, when you hear it you almost don’t believe it,” Fresno State associate head coach Michael Schwartz said. “You hear that and you’re, ‘Oh, there’s no way that’s true. Not one time?’ ”
And now that winning percentage is down to .731 (38-14).
“For us to keep our poise, keep our composure, and not get back on our heels like we kind of have in those situations all year long … we’ve been in some competitive games all year that were in the balance and could have gone either way and at the end of the day, you just have to keep competing and keep playing,” Terry said.
The Bulldogs’ ability to keep playing and handle the Aztecs’ defensive pressure were key — Fresno State turned over the ball only six times, the fewest forced by the Aztecs this season by four and 11.2 fewer than they had forced over their previous five games.
“The wheels never came off,” Schwartz said. “There are different kinds of runs. Obviously, college basketball is the epitome of runs in terms of momentum and scoring runs and droughts and what not, but the wheels never came off in that we didn’t turn the ball over. I think that was a big reason how we survived that run because they still had to go earn their baskets and Shrigley and Quinn had to make some really tough baskets.
“A lot of times you see runs in basketball there’s a lot of turnovers and San Diego State in particular, when you watch them play, with their press and with their pressure, they cause so many turnovers and now they can get out and not only are they scoring baskets like they were with the 3s or off offensive rebounds now they also have transition baskets and converting on turnovers. When you really look hard at that run, 17-0 that really wasn’t a part of it. It wasn’t turnovers leading to layups, it wasn’t turnovers leading to easy baskets.
“Our guys did not panic during that run. You could feel the momentum, but our guys didn’t panic. That’s why we were able to get the momentum back.”
One that got away
Boise State guard Derrick Marks hit 11 of 20 shots and scored 31 points while 10 teammates went a combined 11 for 34 and scored 30 in a 62-61 loss to Utah State.
But in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately department, Marks went to the free-throw line with 13 seconds remaining and with a 61-59 lead and missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
The Aggies rebounded and scored, forward David Collette hitting a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer to drop the Broncos to 0-2 in MW play.
Marks had hit 27 of his first 31 free throws this season (87.1%), including a 4 of 4 against the Aggies, while Collette in his first 13 games had made 1 of only 4 3-pointers.
How low can they go?
San Jose State went 2-10 in its nonconference games, the two wins over Bethesda and St. Katherine and the 10 losses against Division I opponents coming by an average of 15.4 points, so an inauspicious start to conference play was expected — and what we got.
In a 61-33 loss at Utah State, the Spartans shot just 12 of 60 (20%), including 6 of 28 on 3-pointers (21.4%), and turned over the ball 12 times in matching the Air Force in 2003 with the lowest scoring output by a MW team.
The fewest points scored:
San Jose State in a 61-33 loss at Utah State on Dec. 31, 2014.
Air Force in a 65-33 loss at Brigham Young on Feb. 3, 2003.
New Mexico in a 55-34 loss at San Diego State on Jan. 26, 2013.
Air Force in a 65-34 loss at San Diego State on Feb. 7, 2009.
Air Force in a 45-35 loss at Utah on Feb. 1, 2003.
Air Force in a 37-35 loss at Texas-Pan American on Feb. 16, 2004.
Texas Christian in a 63-35 loss at Oklahoma on Dec. 2, 2006.
The Spartans now have three of the five lowest scoring games in the conference this season, but they still are ahead of Air Force in that 2002-03 season. The Falcons had the six lowest point totals in the conference and seven of the bottom eight.
•San Diego State’s
loss at Fresno State was its first to a school from California since it dropped a game at Pacific on Nov. 25, 2009. The Aztecs had won 47 in a row, the longest streak in the nation against opponents from any single state. That includes six victories over San Diego, five over San Diego Christian, four over Fresno State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside, and also two over Cal and USC and one over UCLA.
• New Mexico will have to make a go of it without starting point guardCullen Neal
, who is out for the season with an ankle injury suffered in the third game of the season. The Lobos will seek a medical hardship waiver for the sophomore, who was averaging 17.7 points per game.
was picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll and played like it through much of the nonconference season. The Wolf Pack started 2-8, hitting just 37% of their shots with an average of 7.9 assists and scoring 58.7 points per game. In their past three games, though, which includes a victory over Air Force in the MW opener, the Pack has hit 47.3% with 17.0 assists and 81.3 points.
was called for just three fouls in its victory at San Jose State — to 20 against the Spartans. The Cowboys shot 24 more free throws (30 to 6) and they were on the road. The three personal fouls are the fewest ever called against a team in a MW game. Utah had been called for six in a 57-53 victory at UNLV in 2005, a game in which the Rebels were called for 16 fouls.
• Colorado State got 25 points off the bench from guardJohn Gillon
in a victory over Boise State on New Year’s Eve, which is more than five teams in the conference have had from their benches in two conference games. Air Force has 24 bench points, Fresno State has 21 (19 coming at New Mexico from Marvelle Harris, who did not start because he was late to a practice), Utah State has 20, Wyoming has four and San Jose State has two.
got more points from its bench in handing the Rams their first loss of the season than from its starters — 38 to 28 — and is averaging 33.5 points off the bench in MW play.
took only 39 shots in its victory over Fresno State, tied for the second fewest in the MW this season, and still managed 76 points after getting 22 coming at the free-throw line. Wyoming allowed Stetson only 38 shots in November, the Hatters scoring 41 points. And Wyoming allowed Denver 39 shots last month, the Pioneers scoring 42 points.