Fresno State had a quick turnaround from a loss to Evansville at the Cancun Challenge, a game coach Rodney Terry said they felt they should have won. But in that time they put enough pieces back together to take out George Mason on Wednesday in the third-place game in the Riviera Division at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
In a 79-73 victory, the Bulldogs were much sharper at the offensive end, getting a game-high 23 points from Deshon Taylor and a solid game from Ray Bowles Jr., who had struggled through the Bulldogs’ first four games.
Bowles had hit only 9 of 28 shots, and 5 of 21 against the three Division I opponents Fresno State had played — that’s 32.1 and 23.8 percent respectively, and his point totals were seven, three and four.
But the graduate transfer from Pacific was there when George Mason made a second-half run at the Bulldogs (3-2), cutting a 14-point halftime lead to 55-51 with 11:54 to go.
“That’s the Ray Bowles we expect to see,” Terry said. “He carries himself with great poise all around and had a great floor game from an offensive standpoint.”
Bowles hit 5 of 7 shots and had an assist in the second half, finishing with 21 points, and came down with a key rebound at the defensive end with 38 seconds to go that gave the Bulldogs a chance to finish the game at the foul line.
“I had open lanes and open shots,” Bowles said. “I tried not to force anything. I pretty much let the game come to me and I tried to do what I could in order to put our team in situations where we could win the game.
“I’d definitely say I felt more comfortable. I felt like I played like myself.”
Fresno State, which had hit only 5 of 14 free throws in that loss to Evansville, were better against George Mason, but not great. The Bulldogs were 13 of 21 at the line, 4 of 6 in the final minute.
The Patriots got as close as 3 points, the last time at 76-73 with 23 seconds remaining. But Jahmel Taylor knocked down a pair of free throws and Deshon Taylor came up with a steal from Otis Livingston II at the defensive end.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MONTANA STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Sunday: Noon at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 3-2, Bobcats 4-2
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Montana State won both of its games in Cancun playing in the Mayan Division of the Cancun Challenge opposite the Bulldogs in the Riviera Division, beating Binghamton 74-64 and Southeast Missouri State 88-82 on Wednesday in the championship game. Southeast Missouri State hit 56.9 percent of its shots but were 4 of 15 at the 3-point line. Montana State was led by junior guard Tyler Hall, who hit 11 of 19 shots including 8 of 15 at the 3-point line in scoring a game-high 34 points. The other four Bobcats starters combined for 25 points and the Bobcats got 29 off the bench. Hall scored 18 points in the victory over Binghamton and was 11 of 21 at the 3-point line.