LAS VEGAS – Fresno State’s Mountain West Basketball Championship first-round game against Air Force resembled its regular-season. The Bulldogs were down early but came back to advance.
Fresno State completed a late-game rally after trailing for much of the game and captured a 61-59 victory over the Falcons Wednesday evening at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Bulldogs opened the MW schedule losing the first eight games of the MW season but winning eight of its last 10, securing the No. 7 seed in the tournament. Now the Bulldogs will play the second-seeded Lobos in Thursday’s quarterfinal round at 7 p.m. MT.
“We’re playing one of the better teams, not only in our league but in the country,” Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said of the Lobos. “You get a chance to savor this moment for one night, just like you do in conference play. You get a chance to keep it, win or lose, one night, (then) on to the next opponent.”
Fresno State Bulldogs watch from the bench while the last seconds of the game against Air Force countdown Wednesday evening at the Thomas & Mac Center. Fresno grabbed the win 61-59 advancing to the quarterfinals against the No. 2 seed New Mexico Lobos Thursday.
With the win, Fresno State completed its biggest comeback of the season. Air Force held a 15-point lead at 54-29 with six and a half minutes left in the game before the Bulldogs outscored the Falcons by a 22-3 margin. The Bulldogs benefitted from 13 straight points.
Guard Tyler Johnson hit two 3-pointers to force a tie at 59, and Alex Davis drained the go-ahead free throws in the final 12 seconds. Air Force hit only one field goal over the final 2:28.
Johnson recorded a double-double to lead the Bulldogs, scoring 19 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Guard Allen Huddleston added 15 points and forward Alex Davis had 12.
Air Force guard Tre’ Coggins led all scorers with 20 points, followed by guard Max Yon with 15.
“I don’t think anything will be different (against UNM),” Huddleston said. “We’ll approach it the same way. We’ll watch our film, guard their actions, play defense and defend them, and hopefully put the ball in the hole.”
UNM captured an 89-78 win at Fresno State on Jan. 18 but did not have the return trip to The Pit with the 18-game schedule in place. Now the Bulldogs have less than 24 hours to turn around and play the conference’s regular-season runner-up/defending tournament champion.
“We still have some familiarity in having had a chance to face them the one time,” Terry said. “We were new to this league a year ago, got a great taste of The Pit, those guys twice. Again, they’re one of the best teams in the country, one that knows who they are.”
Utah State 73, Colorado State 69
Much like Fresno State did to Air Force, No. 8 seed Utah State overcame a nine-point deficit in the final minute and a half and advanced to the second round past the ninth-seeded Rams.
The Rams held a 66-57 lead with 2:19 left in the game before the Aggies rattled off a 10-0 run, taking the lead with a 3-pointer and two free throws from forward Spencer Butterfield. He made both foul shots after a technical foul called on Colorado State’s Daniel Bejarano.
Guard Preston Medlin led Utah State in scoring with 17 points. Butterfield and guard TeNale Roland tallied 14 points apiece.
The Aggies sank 11 3-pointers in the game, with six coming in the second half. TeNale made four of his five shots from long range and Medlin dropped three in five attempt. At the other end Colorado State missed 14 of 17 triples.
Colorado State’s Dwight Smith, in his first start of the season, recorded a game-high 21 points in the loss. Guard Jon Octeus had 19 and forward J.J. Avila had 10.
The Aggies will play top seed and MW regular-season champion San Diego State Thursday at 1 p.m. MT.
Boise State 83, San Jose State 52
The Broncos scored the first 25 points and kept San Jose State scoreless over the first nine minutes en route to the most lopsided win in Mountain West tournament history.
Guard Derrick Marks led the Broncos with 17 points, followed by forward Ryan Watkins with 14 points, guard Thomas Bropleh with 12 points and guard Igor Hadziomerovic with 10 points.
Guard Rashad Muhammad paced San Jose State with 13 points while forward Chris Cunningham had 11.
The win puts Boise State into Thursday’s last quarterfinal game against Nevada at 9:30 p.m. MT.