Taylor leads Bulldogs to comeback 77-73 win vs Aztecs
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Making up a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat San Diego State 77-73 was far from the craziest thing Fresno State encountered Wednesday.
Two players who had graduated in the fall, Jaron Hopkins and Jahmel Taylor, had to be driven from Fresno to San Diego earlier in the day because they hadn’t been admitted to grad programs and certified by the NCAA in time to travel with the team on Tuesday. After getting admitted and certified, they were scheduled to be on an 11:55 a.m. flight but it was delayed and they had to be driven to San Diego. They arrived at Viejas Arena at 6 p.m.
“Luckily for us it was an 8 p.m. tip,” coach Rodney Terry said.
“Sometimes through distractions and adversity it brings your group a little bit closer and more focused, and I thought this group was pretty focused today at shootaround,” Terry said. “Every guy knew they needed to be prepared and ready to go tonight because of the situation we were involved with.”
Hopkins scored six points and had a big basket with 47.8 seconds left for a three-point lead. Taylor scored three points.
“We all just kept the faith, even if they weren’t able to play,” Fresno State guard Ray Bowles said. “Whoever we had here, that’s all we had so we were going to have to try to get the job done either with or without them. Obviously we would love for them to come up here and play, which they did. Overall it was a tough situation but it brightened up once we found out they were coming.”
Deshon Taylor scored 22 points, including two free throws with 15.7 seconds left.
Fresno State (14-6, 4-3 Mountain West) trailed 52-42 less than five minutes into the second half. The Bulldogs slowly pulled back into it thanks to some big shots by Nate Grimes, who had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Grimes also came up with a huge defensive play in the closing seconds. With the Bulldogs up 75-73 after Jaron Hopkins made 1 of 2 free throws, Grimes blocked a shot in the key by Devin Watson with 21 seconds left. Deshon Taylor grabbed the ball, was fouled and made both free throws.
Bowles added 13 points and Bryson Williams 11 for the Bulldogs.
Sam Bittner hit a huge 3-pointer from the right corner for Fresno State with 4:53 left that tied it at 68. Grimes then made four free throws to give the Bulldogs a 72-68 lead.
San Diego State’s Malik Pope was kneed in the groin with 5:36 left and was down for several minutes. He had to be helped off the court. He scored 10 points.
Redshirt freshman Jalen McDaniels had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double for SDSU (11-6, 3-3). Trey Kell also had 14 points, Matt Mitchell scored 13 and Watson 11.
Mitchell scored six points during a 12-6 run opening the second half that gave SDSU a 52-42 lead. He made two free throws, a jumper and a jump hook, and Pope hit a 3-pointer.
McDaniels had some nice plays early that helped SDSU to a 40-36 halftime lead. Less than three minutes in, he blocked a shot by Williams to start a fast break that he finished with a slam dunk off a pass from Kell. Late in the half, he rebounded Kell’s missed shot for a slam dunk and free throw that gave SDSU a 33-31 lead.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs won at Viejas Arena for the second straight year. They won 63-55 here last season. FSU has won three of four.
San Diego State: The Aztecs, trying to rebound from an 83-80 loss at Boise State, hurt themselves from the free-throw line by making only 24 of 36.
Fresno State is at Air Force on Saturday.
San Diego State is at New Mexico on Saturday night.