For all about the last fractions of a second, Fresno State dominated the boards on Friday in a matchup against Miami at the Wooden Legacy. Up against a bigger front line, the Bulldogs had 43 rebounds and a plus-15 rebounding advantage.
But the Hurricanes got the last one and the victory when Zach Johnson rebounded a missed shot and slammed it through the rim to push Miami to a 78-76 victory.
The Bulldogs didn’t get a body on the 6-foot-2 Johnson, who seconds earlier had fouled Deshon Taylor at the 3-point line with Miami up three.
“I thought Chris (Lykes) had a great look,” Johnson said. “There was about six or eight seconds left and I knew that our best chance to win, if he missed it, was to get on the offensive board. I took off, the ball just bounced my way and I put it back in.”
Fresno State (2-2) had tied the score on three free throws with 13 seconds to go by Taylor, who along with Braxton Huggins played the Bulldogs through 20 turnovers, a ton of foul trouble and some dreadful shooting at the start and end of the season half.
“There were ups and downs but if we had a little less turnovers it would have helped us — 20 turnovers are not going to beat a team like that,” coach Justin Hutson said.
Bulldogs also were 0 of 9 to start that second half, and 1 of 10 to finish.
“I definitely did (think we were going to overtime),” Huggins said. “(But) that possession wasn’t the one that made us lose the game. Like coach said, throughout the game we had silly turnovers, we had our pick-and-roll issues and our defense wasn’t that good. We have to get back and work on that, watch some film. But the last couple of possessions weren’t the ones that made us lose the game.”
Huggins, who picked up a fourth foul with 12:21 to go and fouled out with 34 seconds remaining, hit 10 of 21 shots in scoring a career-high 28 points. Taylor, who had a fourth foul with 12:36 remaining, hit 8 of 14 shots in scoring 25 points.
The Bulldogs were there — it was a two-possession game through the second half, the largest lead by Miami at 47-41 with 16:43 to play.
Fresno State coming into the season had won just three of its past 23 games against teams from Power Five conferences — and made it three of 24 with a Nov. 15 loss at TCU. But the Bulldogs beat Northwestern on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Wooden Legacy, played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, and had a chance down the stretch against the 5-0 Hurricanes.
In the game, the score was tied 12 times and there were 11 lead changes.
“In the second half, I thought we played really well and it was a great contest,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “They (Fresno State) are very good and I thought we played really well. It came down to one possession and one missed shot that turned into an offensive rebound dunk. Zach had himself a great game and deserves a lot of credit for helping us win this.”
The Bulldogs will conclude the Wooden Legacy at 1 p.m. Sunday against the loser of Friday’s late game between Hawaii and Seton Hall.