It took double overtime for San Diego State to get past Fresno State Thursday and it didn’t look good as the Bulldogs hefted another three-pointer for the win.
But this one, by Isaiah Hill, didn’t fall – unlike the one by Junior Ballard that forced the game to overtime in the first place –and the Aztecs survived in their final home game of the season, 65-64.
SDSU (20-7, 12-4 Mountain West) had a chance to make the Bulldogs (18-11, 8-8 MW) hit another three just to force triple OT, but Trey Pulliam missed two free throws with 11 seconds left, leaving the door open.
San Diego State, in fact, failed to make a field goal in the game’s final four minutes, as the Bulldogs played smothering defense. But Deon Stroud overstepped, fouling Matt Bradley as he attempted a three with just over two minutes to play and he made two of the free throws, first to tie, then to give SDSU a lead the team held onto – just barely.
“That’s what made us win (this) game tonight,” Bradley told XTRA 1360, pointing to the close games SDSU has played over the past month. “We’re gonna fight it out until the end.”
Early on the Aztecs built a solid lead, but never again; the Bulldogs, as Bradley said, “came to play.”
SDSU held a 20-10 lead, bolstered by an 11-0 run, but Fresno State jumped back in on two quick buckets by Jordan Campbell, including a dunk. The Bulldogs pulled within one, at 23-22 on free throws by Campbell.
But SDSU helped out by only making two field goals over almost the final 10 minutes of the half, a fallow period broken up by two Keshad Johnson shots, including a hook with less than a minute left.
So the Aztecs clung to a 27-24 lead at the break, but they stayed cold upon their return. The Bulldogs pounced on the opportunity, finally taking the lead thanks to four three-pointers in two minutes.
Campbell, who established a career scoring high, drew them close, and Anthony Holland gave them a 40-39 lead.
Both, with an additional trey each, padded the lead to 46-41, broken up by a Chad Baker-Mazara jumper.
Yet SDSU snagged the advantage back with just under three minutes to play on a Bradley jumper. It grew to three on a Pulliam bucket with 20 seconds left, but Ballard’s buzzer beater fell, leaving the game tied at 54.
With 47 seconds left in the first OT, an Orlando Robinson free throw, following his layup, completed the three-point play to tie it again at 60.
Bradley led all scorers with 26, while Campbell, who fouled out, put in 19 for Fresno State. Johnson, who had nine points, also shone on defense down the stretch, including a block of a Hill shot with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
SDSU also shored up its position in the conference, alone in third place, thanks to the win and Wyoming’s Wednesday loss to UNLV.
The Aztecs wrap up the regular season on the road in Reno Saturday. They face Nevada (12-16, 6-11 MW), losers of three straight, at 7:30 p.m.
Updated 12:15 a.m. March 4, 2022