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The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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‘Dogs left emotional after loss to No. 22 Utah State

Jacqueline Carrillo/The Collegian
Bulldog guard Isaac Taveras shoots one handed layup in the Save Mart Center on Feb. 27.

Despite putting on their best performance in weeks, Fresno State’s men’s basketball team extended their losing streak to four games with a 77-73 loss to No. 22 Utah State on Feb. 27 at the Save Mart Center.

Rallying from a 32-point loss on Feb. 24 to San Diego State, the ‘Dogs scored more than 70 points for the first time since January and had four players end with double-digit scoring.

The loss brings Fresno State’s overall record to 11-17, 4-11 in conference play, and is the seventh game in which Fresno State has fallen to an opponent by less than five points. The last of which came on Feb. 14 in a 67-65 loss to UNLV.

The team’s inability to win is especially impactful as the ‘Dogs led by three points with seven seconds remaining in regulation before Utah State’s senior guard Darius Brown banked in a 3-point shot to force overtime.

When asked about the seeming pattern of losing close games, Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson candidly said.

“He hit a bank shot. So what are you saying? Are you saying that I fucked it up?” Huston said. “He dribbled full court, we told them to foul and he hit a bank shot. What would you have done?”

The game began as a defensive battle, with both teams racking up five fouls in the first four minutes of play. Utah State jumped out to an early 16-8 lead through the first nine minutes of the half.

However, senior guard Isaiah Hill scored a layup and drew a foul on the ensuing possession to rally the ‘Dogs and tie the game 16-16 with six minutes remaining. Hill finished the night as Fresno State’s leading scorer with 21 points and playing 41 minutes.

At the end of the first half the score stood at 30-25, with the Aggies holding just a five-point advantage over the Bulldogs. Despite trailing, the Red Wave cheered mightily as the teams headed to the locker room.

The second half saw both teams trading blows but seven minutes into the half Utah State pulled away to their largest lead of the half so far at 47-39.

Facing an eight-point deficit, the ‘Dogs senior guard Xavier DuSell sparked the offense with a 3-pointer. Hill then hit a 3-pointer of his own and senior forward Leo Colimerio made a difficult layup to tie the game at 47-47 just a minute later.

With nine minutes left in regulation the ‘Dogs took their first lead of the night from a layup by junior guard Jalen Weaver. The two teams then traded leads until the ‘Dogs began to pull away with a 61-57 lead from a 3-pointer by Hill with just more than a minute remaining.

The final minute of the game was led entirely by Fresno State, and after an intentional foul and two made free throws by DuSell, Fresno State led 65-62 with seven seconds remaining.

However, the Aggies tied the game as Brown dribbled the length of the court without being fouled and banked in a long-range 3-point shot at the buzzer. He finished with 15 total points with both of his two made 3-point shots coming in the clutch.

The Save Mart Center was left in stunned silence as a rowdy crowd expecting an end to the ‘Dogs’ losing streak had just been stripped of their intended celebration.

“We said foul. We did not foul,” Hutson said. “We called them over to the side and told them to foul [Brown] on the second dribble. And to make sure it was not during the act of shooting. It did not get done.”

The ‘Dogs began overtime down yet another player, as Hill fouled out just 30 seconds into the period from a shooting foul.

Nevertheless, senior guard Isaiah Pope stepped up when called upon, scoring six of the Bulldogs’ eight points in overtime, tying the game 73-73 with 50 seconds remaining by making a layup through traffic in the post.

Despite the late-game heroics, the Aggies came away with the game in a manner eerily reminiscent of the period as Brown hit another bank shot 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in the overtime.

Fresno State players walked away from the court emotionally strained after yet another close loss. Weaver was left in tears on the bench while Pope kicked a floor-level seat into a trash can out of frustration.

Bulldog guard Jalen Weaver crouches down and covers his face after the game at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 27. (Jacqueline Carrillo)

The loss did bring some positives to the team, however, with the game serving as their best offensive performance in over a month when the team earned an 85-82 win over San Jose State on Jan. 16.

“After the sting of this, you need to go ahead and talk about all the positive things that happened. You have to come out and hope to play better in the games we have left this season.” Hutson said.

Fresno State will be heading into their final road stint of the season, as they’re set to take on the University of Nevada in Reno this Friday, March 1 at the Lawlor Events Center.

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