No one in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball is hotter than Fresno State senior guard Braxton Huggins.
After scoring 22, 26, and 31 points in the three previous games, Huggins torched Boise State for 26 points Wednesday night, including a layup and a free throw with 28 seconds remaining that put Bulldogs ahead for good.
In addition, junior forward Nate Grimes was a tower of strength inside with 13 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocked shots in Fresno State’s pulsating 65-63 victory over the Broncos.
Hutson: Huggins is Fearless
“He has no fear and he is talented. I think you have to have both,” Bulldogs coach Justin Hutson said of Huggins. “You can’t have a guy who is talented but scared to take the shot. As you can see, he can really score the basketball. We talk about making the play, we want him to attack and if he has to then we want him to kick it out. If he is open to make a play, then he is one of our best.”
Fresno State (18-6, 9-3) remains tied with Utah State for second in the Mountain West Conference behind seventh-ranked Nevada, after sweeping the Broncos (11-14, 6-6) in their season series.
Huggins, a 6-foot, 4-inch native of Bakersfield is accustomed to taking the big shots in game-deciding situations. Before transferring to Fresno State, he helped New Mexico State reach the NCAA Tournament twice and the NIT once. His recent surge has swelled his season scoring average to a team-high 19 points a game. He is shooting 39.7% from behind the 3-point arc and 79.8% at the free-throw line.
Against the Broncos, he converted 9 of 16 shots from the field, including 4 of 9 treys.
“It is the confidence that my teammates and my coaches give me,” Huggins said. “My teammates tell me that if I have a lane open, I can take it and if I have an open look, shoot it. That is exactly what I do.”
Nail-Biter From Start to Finish
The lead changed hands 16 times in the game. Boise State’s Alex Hobbs hit a jumper to put the Broncos up 61-59 with 48 seconds left to play.
But Huggins scored at the basket and drew a foul from Hobbs to put Fresno State in front. Hobbs drew a foul with eight seconds left and sank both free throws to make it a one-point game, but Grimes drew a foul with six seconds left and hit the first of two free throws for the final margin.
— Dog Pound (@FSDogPound) February 14, 2019
Grimes’ Game Grows by Leaps and Bounds
Grimes flashed his potential last year with the nation’s third-best per-minute rebound average (0.44). His progress has accelerated as he has polished his offensive skills. Grimes posted his ninth double-double of the season Wednesday, eighth of them coming in MW play.
Up Next: At New Mexico
Fresno State travels to play at New Mexico on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT. The game will air on ESPN3 and 940 AM ESPN Radio. The Bulldogs’ next home game is against Air Force on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs dropped New Mexico, 82-70, at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 2, but Hutson knows his team has a tough road assignment against the very athletic Lobos.
“They have 16,000 people there every night —win, lose or draw. It is loud and you are in altitude,” Hutson said. They always have really good teams and good coaches, and that goes along with it.”
— Fresno State held Boise State to 36.7% shooting and a 3-for-17 clip on 3-pointers. The Bulldogs had five blocks, including a crucial one from guard Noah Blackwell with 11 seconds left in the game.
— The Bulldogs continue as one of the MW’s most consistent programs. They have won at least nine conference games six consecutive seasons. Fresno State also is one of three MW programs to have finished .500 or better in league play in each of the past five seasons.
— Hobbs led Boise State with 18 points.
— Senior guard Deshon Taylor is now 19th on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list with 1,301 career points. He had 11 points and three steals against Boise State.