Despite two straight discouraging road losses at San Jose State and Air Force, the Fresno State Bulldogs opened Saturday's game as hot as they have been all season.
Five different Bulldogs contributed to the team's first 15 points, while Boise State has scored only two. The run seemed endless as Jahmel Taylor and Paul Watson combined for four made 3-pointers over the next six minutes, bolstering the lead to 36-9 wit 8:11 remaining in the half.
Fresno State Head Coach Rodney Terry changed his starting lineup in Saturday's game and found a recipe for success. Cullen Russo was not with the team due to an academic issue, and key players Jaron Hopkins and Karachi Edo were sent to the bench. Replacing the three leaders were Deshon Taylor, Sam Bittner and Bryson Williams. Jahmel Taylor and Paul Watson rounded out the starting lineup.
"We challenged our guys to get back to Bulldog basketball," Fresno State Head Coach Rodney Terry said. "I felt we got away from that in the last couple ball games in terms of blue collar and playing as hard as you can play. You don't have to play perfect, but we want to see unbelievable effort and I think we got that. The first half was probably our best half of the year on both sides of the court."
The new-look lineup kept momentum going into halftime, holding a 51-29 lead at the break. Boise State closed the 27-point deficit to as few as nine points, but was never able to get the game within reach. Fresno State made 33 of 43 free throws with Deshon Taylor making 13 of 14 himself, closing out the game with an 89-80 victory.
Taylor led the Bulldogs with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Jahmel Taylor, Paul Watson, Bryson Williams, Karachi Edo and Jaron Hopkins all finished in double digits. Chandler Hutchison led the Broncos with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Star foward Nick Duncan made only 2 of 11 shots from the field.
Fresno State improves to 11-7 on the season and 3-3 in Mountain West play. Boise State's first conference loss makes them 11-5 on the year and 4-1 in conference. The Bulldogs return home on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. PT game versus Colorado State (11-7, 3-2).