In a physical contest that saw the Cowboys and Fresno State combine for 55 fouls, Fresno State (10-5, 2-1) defeated Wyoming (11-5, 1-2 MW) 85-70 Wednesday evening in the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The Pokes shot a season-low 32 percent from the field with the MW leader field goal percentage, Fresno State shooting 46 percent on the night.
“It was a tough loss, we had a chance to make a run late, but lost it offensively and defensively,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “Fresno State is a very good team, everyone has to be at their best and I thought at times we weren’t on the same page.”
The Pokes went 24-of-31 from the free throw line on the night for 77 percent. The Bulldogs were just as effective shooting 76 percent from the charity stripe going 28-of-37. The 55 combined fouls was the second most in a game this season.
UW was led in scoring by junior guard Alexander Aka Gorski with 19 points. He added 13 of those points in the opening frame and added four-straight points to tie the contest to open the second half. Junior forward Hayden Dalton added his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He as a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Redshirt freshman Cody Kelley added a career-high 10 points, which came via three triples on the night.
“Fresno State is a physical basketball team and we did do a great job finishing at the rim tonight,” Edwards said. “Fresno State played hard and made it tough for us. I thought our spacing on the floor was not great, I thought at times it was selfish.”
Fresno State was strong from the field to open the contest hitting five of their first six shots to make it 12-7 to open the first half. Fresno State’s Cullen Russo had four points in the opening minutes and also grabbed three rebounds.
Junior guard Alexander Aka Gorski led the Pokes with seven points in the first five minutes to help the Pokes cut the lead to one point at 12-11. The Cowboys would take the lead back at 14-13 on a triple Kelley. But the Bulldogs hit two-straight three pointers to take a 19-14 lead on UW.
The Pokes went over four minutes without a field goal, but triples by Aka Gorski and senior guard Jason McManamen helped the Cowboys cut the deficit to one once again 25-24 with 7:30 remaining in the opening frame. Fresno State went 5-of-6 from the field that helped build a 28-24 lead, but it was stalled by Kelley’s second three pointer of the game.
The Bulldogs used free throws late in the half to build a 41-37 at the break. Fresno State shot 80 percent from the line in the opening frame and also shot 52 percent from the field and 63 percent from behind the three point line.
“Fresno State just made some tough shots in the first half, I thought we defended well,” Edwards said. “They came out ready to play in their home arena and they got the crowd involved.”
Aka Gorski added four-straight points to open the second half, as UW tied the game at 41-41. But an 8-0 run helped the Bulldogs build their largest lead of the game to that point of eight at 51-43 five minutes into the frame. The Pokes went without a field goal for nearly three minutes, but back-to-back buckets cut the Bulldog lead to four at 53-49 with under 10 minutes remaining in the half.
The Cowboys cut the lead to as little as three at 68-65 with a little over four minutes remaining. The run saw the Pokes go 3-for-3 from the field. Fresno State responded back with a 7-2 run, thanks to free throws to make the contest a 75-67 game with 2:51 remaining.
Fresno State added to their lead late from the free throw line on their way to the 85-70. The Bulldogs hit 20 free throws in the second half with eight coming in the final three minutes.
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by forward Paul Watson, as he scored a game-high 25 points going 8-of-16 from the field. Forward Cullen Russo added 18 points on the night with guard Jahmel Taylor adding 14. Taylor is one of the top three point shooters in the country, but was held to only one on Wednesday.
The Cowboys return to action next Wednesday hosting Utah State in the Arena-Auditorium for a 7 p.m. start on ROOT SPORTS.