LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Clutch offensive production in the second half boosted Fresno State past UNLV 82-79 in Mountain West play Friday night before an announced crowd of 5,762 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The triumph gives the Bulldogs a season sweep of their two conference games; Fresno State won 76-63 on Jan. 21. Both teams are 4-7 in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs are 8-14 overall, UNLV 15-8.
“Just couldn’t quite get our rhythm going defensively,” said UNLV coach Kevin Kruger, whose team had won four straight. “Couldn’t kind of get them off balance and force them into the shots that would have been good for us. They made some big shots, made some good plays, and we just weren’t able to get over that hump in the second half.”
Jemarl Baker and Isaiah Hill led the Bulldogs. Baker scored a career-best 23 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point ranger. Hill made 8 of 13 shots, 4 of 6 on 3s.
UNLV led 43-37 at the half, but Fresno State came out of the break with a 7-0 run, with Eduardo Andre scoring five points in the burst.
With 5:19 left, Fresno State pushed ahead 70-64 on the strength of a 14-2 run capped by Leo Colimerio’s dunk off a turnover. The Rebels got close, trailing 76-74 on Justin Webster’s 3 with 1:19 left. But the Bulldogs finished by hitting six of their final eight free throws to seal it.
Fresno State made 12 of 23 second-half shots, including 4 of 7 on 3s. Overall, the Bulldogs made 49% of their shots (25 of 51), including 9-for-17 from 3-point range (52.9%).
“It’s going to be tough to win any game when that happens,” said Kruger of the Bulldogs’ shooting.
UNLV didn’t shoot that poorly, making 25 of 54 (46.3%) overall and 6-for-16 from 3-point range(37.5%). But when it came to making clutch shots, the Bulldogs seemed to have the edge.
“Defense,” said UNLV’s Luis Rodriguez explaining what was lacking for Rebels. “Getting stops. They got comfortable. They shot like 50-something percent from the field and 52 from 3. Just fining our man and executing defensively.”
EJ Harkless was superb for the Rebels, scoring a game-high 27 points. He made 9 of 18 shots and 7 of 9 free throws. Keshon Gilbert added 19, making 5 of 10 shots and all nine of his free throws. .