Coach Justin Hutson’s Fresno State basketball team is making a habit of comeback victories in Mountain West Conference play.
On Tuesday night, in fact, the Bulldogs bounced back from a 20-point first-half deficit to defeat San Diego State 66-62 before a crowd of 5,792 at the Save Mart Center.
20 points, 8 Rebounds for Huggins
Braxton Huggins sparked Fresno State with 20 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Nate Grimes backed Huggins up with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
In addition, senior guard/forward Sam Bittner scored a career-high 18 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-1 in the Mountain West and 14-4 overall. They are tied with Nevada and UNLV atop the conference standings.
“To show that resiliency says a lot about this group of guys,” Hutson said. “I have been coaching for a long time. I have been down before, and I have been on the opposite side and had a lead and blew it, so the key to that is to stay poised, make an adjustment if you need to and make sure everybody stays together. That is what we did.”
Jalen McDaniels had 19 points and 10 rebounds for San Diego State (10-8, 2-3). Jeremy Hemsley added 14 and Devin Watson 13.
HIGHLIGHTS 🎥 | The Bulldogs bounced back from a 20-point deficit and defeated San Diego State 66-62 at the Save Mart Center last night!
— Fresno State Men’s Basketball (@FresnoStateMBB) January 24, 2019
Bulldogs Pulled Off Comeback Minus Blackwell
Adding to the degree of difficulty in pinning down the victory: Fresno State played without injured point guard Noah Blackwell.
Just last Saturday while on the road, the Bulldogs overcame a six-point halftime deficit en route to a 63-53 victory over Boise State behind the strong closing play of Deshon Taylor and tenacious defense.
This time, Fresno State was forced to overcome the loss of Taylor, who picked up his fifth foul with 2 minutes, 4 seconds remaining.
Stout Second-Half Defense Again
As was the case against Boise State, a strong defensive effort enabled Fresno State to close out the victory. The Bulldogs held the Aztecs to just one made field goal in the final four minutes.
A Grimes’ putback gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the game’s opening five seconds at 52-51.
Bittner was fouled on a 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining and hit 2 of 3 free throws for a 63-58 lead, and Huggins made two more on their next possession.
Bittner, who had five points at halftime, sparked the second-half comeback with three early 3-pointers.
Next: Road Games vs. Colorado State, Wyoming
Fresno State has won six of the last eight games in the series with San Diego State.
The Bulldogs’ attention now turns to the road, where they face Colorado State on Saturday and Wyoming on Jan. 30.
Fresno State has won all three of its MW road contests, beating San Jose State, Utah State, and Boise State.