Feb 22, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs forward Bryson Williams (11) is defended by San Diego State Aztecs forward Malik Pope (21) during the second half at Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Fresno State Bulldogs picked a great time to finally win at San Diego State.
The Bulldogs blew almost all of an 11-point lead before freshman big man Bryson Williams and Deshon Taylor and Jahmel Taylor came up big down the stretch to beat the Aztecs 63-55 Wednesday night.
Williams made three big shots in the final minutes and scored 18 points. Deshon Taylor scored 15 points and Jahmel Taylor 11.
The Bulldogs (17-11, 9-7 Mountain West) dominated most of the game for their third straight win. They led 44-33 with 10 minutes to go before the Aztecs went on a 10-0 run.
“They’re not going to go down easy, now,” Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said. “You know a run’s coming. And they did. We had to try to withstand it. … We were going to try to figure it out. Our biggest thing was trying to stay connected. We’ve had some struggles on the road where we have not been as connected as we needed to be and I thought our guys for 40 minutes tonight were pretty connected in terms of finishing the game.”
The Bulldogs hadn’t won in San Diego since 1999. The long-time rivals hadn’t played regularly since then, though, as the Bulldogs stayed in the Western Athletic Conference before joining the Mountain West for the 2012-13 season.
“It’s a place we have a lot of respect for,” Terry said. “We know it’s going to be a tough place to play and you have to outcompete them in this environment.”
Fresno State dominated inside most of the game, including outrebounding the Aztecs 37-27.
Jeremy Hemsley and Dakarai Allen scored 13 apiece and Malik Pope 11 for SDSU (16-11, 8-7), which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Aztecs got back into the game on a 10-0 run keyed by Hemsley’s bank shot and 3-pointer.
Deshon Taylor was fouled by Dakarai Allen taking a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to make it 47-43. Jahmel Taylor hit a big 3-pointer with 5 minutes to go, and Williams powered his way to two inside shots to help keep the Aztecs at bay. Williams also had a dunk in the final seconds to finish 8 of 11.
After the Aztecs closed within one point, “We got anxious and tried too hard,” coach Steve Fisher said. “We were still fuzzy mentally.”
The Bulldogs beat the Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game last season, ending SDSU’s string of six straight NCAA tournament appearances.
SDSU, the three-time defending regular-season champion, won 70-67 at Fresno on Feb. 4.
San Diego State started fast before Fresno State went on a 15-3 en route to a 30-24 halftime lead. Jahmel Taylor scored eight in the run, including two 3-pointers.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs have righted themselves since a three-game losing streak that included a four-overtime loss at Wyoming on Feb. 8.
San Diego State: The Aztecs had been playing well in winning five of six games.
Overall, it wasn’t a great night for the Aztecs. SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey, who became the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader as a senior last season, wore a Los Angeles Dodgers cap during a pregame autograph session, while sitting in the front row and when he came onto the court to be honored during a first-half timeout. After taking a beating on Twitter, he changed to a red SDSU cap for the second half.
The Dodgers have always been a rival of the San Diego Padres. Feelings toward L.A. are still raw after the NFL’s Chargers announced last month they are leaving San Diego, their home for 56 seasons, for Los Angeles.
Fresno State is at Boise State on Tuesday night.
San Diego State is at Colorado State on Saturday night.