Crazy, but Fresno State’s final points came from the foul line, with the free throws falling Saturday night in a 70-68 overtime victory at Pacific that was in every way a grind.
Paul Watson, 29 seconds remaining. One down, then the other. To that point the Bulldogs had hit 15 of 31 at the free-throw line; were getting outrebounded; had blown a double-digit lead in the second half; and lost control of T.J. Wallace and Ray Bowles, the Tigers’ top two scorers.
Wallace, in foul trouble early, did not score until there was 9:57 left in regulation and finished with 17 points. Bowles was 1 of 6 in the first half and didn’t make his third basket until 6:06 remained and finished with 16 points.
They burned away a Bulldogs lead that hit 13 early in the second half.
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Fresno State (8-3), which hit 39.7 percent of its shots, was fortunate to get it to overtime. Down 63-58 with 40 seconds on the clock, Jaron Hopkins scored on a drive with 31 seconds remaining and after a stop and a Bulldogs’ timeout Jahmel Taylor knocked down a long 3-pointer with 6.7 to play.
Watson led the Bulldogs with 18 points and Bryson Williams and Cullen Russo had 13.
Stat of the game – Fresno State was 12 of 28 at the free-throw line in regulation and 5 of 5 in overtime, the makes by Taylor, Terrell Carter II on a 3-point play and Watson with 29 seconds remaining.
Notable – Taylor’s tying shot toward the end of regulation wasn’t coming easily.
Still, he didn’t rush it.
“We designed a play for me to come off a screen in the corner and I didn’t catch it where I exactly wanted to. Cullen (Russo) came and screened and I was just looking to see when I had to let it go. I saw the clock going down and I said, ‘OK, it’s about time,’ because I didn’t want it to get too low and not have time to get a rebound. But once I let it go, I was pretty confident I was going to make it. Seeing it get close to the rim and go through it, I was very excited.”
It’s the shoes – Footwear was a problem for the Bulldogs, again. Williams lost his red Nike at the offensive end with 16:28 to go in the first half and picked it up just as play headed back to the Pacific end.
Williams chucked the shoe toward the bench as he gave chase, almost hitting the radio team of Paul Loeffler and Marc Q. Jones.
Two games back in a victory over Cal Poly, coach Rodney Terry lost a shoe when gesticulating a bit wildly after a foul on the Bulldogs, earning a technical foul.
Charity case – The shots are free, but they almost cost the Bulldogs a game. Fresno State has hit less than 60 percent of its foul shots in four of the past five games.
Coming up – The Bulldogs travel to Eugene, Ore., to take on No. 22 Oregon at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE VS. OREGON
- Tuesday: 8 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. (12,364)
- Records: Bulldogs , Ducks 10-2
- TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Ducks beat Mountain West school UNLV 83-63 on a neutral court Saturday night in Portland. Oregon is 7-0 on its home floor, including a 68-62 victory over another MW team, Boise State, on Nov. 28. That five-point win is the Ducks’ smallest margin of victory at home.