UNLV took possession with the game tied at 88 and only 36 seconds remaining, a scenario thought unimaginable after the Fresno State Bulldogs held a 72-55 lead just 9 minutes earlier. The Bulldogs’ defense forced overtime after Derrick Jones Jr. missed the go-ahead shot.
Fresno State used a 21-8 scoring stretch to take the 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in regulation, seemingly putting the game away. The Runnin’ Rebels, however, immediately answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 33-14 scoring stretch of their own.
“UNLV made some shots; we have to give them credit,” Fresno State Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “They came down and were on fire. We had a little spell where we weren't making shots, and that happens throughout a game. I thought our guys showed a lot of grit down the stretch and really finished the game strong."
In overtime, UNLV’s four free throws were matched by two Julien Lewis jumpshots. The Bulldogs would have a chance to break the tie in the final seconds. Lewis missed a 3-point attempt with 13 seconds on the clock - the ‘Dogs stole the ball in transition with four seconds remaining, but Cezar Guerrero prematurely missed a half court heave when the Bulldogs could have potentially set up a realistic shot.
In the second overtime, Fresno State took a four-point advantage before UNLV made its first field goal since regulation - a 3-pointer from Patrick McCaw, his fifth of the night. On the ensuing possession, Karachi Edo was fouled and had to leave the game when he fell on his wrist after a mid-air collision.
The Bulldogs survived the blow without losing momentum. Russo made one-of-two free throws and Marvelle Harris sank a 3-point shot to give Fresno State a 100-95 lead. Terrell Carter made a pair of free throws to extend the lead to seven and the ‘Dogs held on to win 111-104.
"Harris and Lewis made plays,” Terry said. “It was a game that got down to who was going to make the most plays and finish possessions. I thought these guys were pivotal guys down the stretch and were getting it done at a high level.”
Marvelle Harris scored 37 points on 13 of 27 shooting from the field, 5 of 10 from 3-point range and made all six free throws. He also added nine rebounds and seven assists - this just three days after one of his worst career performances at San Jose State. Lewis scored 18 points on 8 of 19 from the field.
“Julien Lewis was great in the middle and Marvelle Harris making shots from the outside,” Terry said. “They were the difference making big plays down the stretch and executing through a zone offense."
Cullen Russo added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Terrell Carter scored 14 points with 8 rebounds off the bench. The Bulldogs were without Torren Jones for a second straight game. Jones missed Wednesday’s game on suspension, but was out Saturday due to injury.
Fresno State took command of the game in the opening minutes with a 15-3 run. UNLV came within three points at 23-20, but Harris and Carter combined for 15 points in a 17-10 scoring run to close the first half with a 40-30 lead. It wasn’t until the final minute of regulation until UNLV took back the lead.
Patrick McCaw led UNLV with 28 points and 16 rebounds. Dwayne Morgan and Derrick Jones Jr. each posted double-doubles while Ike Nwamu scored 27 points off the bench. Five-star freshman Stephen Zimmerman left the game in the first half after injuring his leg.
Fresno State still surrendered 25 second chance points. However, the Bulldogs only turned the ball over six times in the 50 minutes of play. Fresno State outshot UNLV 45 to 40 percent and made 80 percent of their free throws compared to 70 percent from the Rebels.
"Every game is a big game for us and the way we come out each and every day, every game should be the high level intensity game,” Lewis said. “When we play UNLV it's a high level game and the next game we have coming in is San Diego State... We just take one game at a time and we know our focus is going to be on San Diego State now”
Fresno State improves to 15-8 on the season and 6-4 in Mountain West play after sweeping the Rebels. Fresno State stands alone at fourth place in the MW standings, only .5 games back of Boise State and one game behind second-placed New Mexico.
The Bulldogs return home Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip-off vs San Diego State (18-6, 11-0).