Not only tough, but tougher. Because five clock-minutes later the Bulldogs were able to finally leave the court with a 82-69 victory over visiting Santa Clara in the book. State improved to 5-2 with the win while the Broncos left Humphrey Coliseum 3-2. It took longer than scheduled Saturday, and the Dogs needed a couple of last-regulation-minute misses by the Broncos to extend their afternoon.
"But when we did get to overtime everybody stepped up and we finished the game the way it should be," said senior center Wesley Morgan. The outcome marked the second time in three Decembers that State had beaten Santa Clara in overtime, with a 2003 victory on the West Coast. That game needed a clutch three-pointer by Winsome Frazier to keep going. This one needed timely defense in the 40th minute by a Dog team with every right to be dragging and only ten bodies available all day.
"Our kids bowed-up right there, that's the most impressive thing of the whole game," Coach Rick Stansbury said. "We were absolutely, totally fatigued."
But not too tired to jump all over the Broncos when OT tipped off. State scored the first seven points in the extra period and never let the margin get closer than four by connecting on all four field goal attempts. "Give credit where it's due," Santa Clara Coach Dick Davey said. "They stepped up in overtime and made the shots."
Starting with a driving lay-in by senior guard Jamall Edmondson, who put in a game-high 43 minutes but still had enough bounce in his legs to take the ball at the Bronco zone defense. "In the regular game we just stood around," Edmondson said, "Coach told us we had to attack and get to the hole. That's what we did in overtime."
But the real OT-tone was set when, after SC's Brody Angley missed a trey-try, Bulldog freshman guard Reggie Delk stuck his from the right wing for what proved the winning points. "We wanted to get up on them, we knew we had to get a lead if we were going to win the game," Delk said. A halt in play allowed Stansbury to sub-in soph forward Charles Rhodes, who took a feed from Gordon and laid it in for a 73-66 margin.
The Bronc-breaker came with 73 seconds left when Edmondson dribbled behind the screen 7-2 Morgan was setting. "I was looking to work the clock but I couldn't turn it down," Edmondson said of his fourth-and-final trey of the day, which extended the lead to 76-69. The last six Bulldog points came from the foul line while Santa Clara got nothing to drop on their end. The Broncos were just 1-of-8 from the field in overtime.
"We came out and pressured them, got in their face," said Gordon. "They had a lot of open shots in the game but we had to get in their face, and they missed them." SC's struggles in OT dropped their final field-goal average under 37%, while the Bulldogs finished at 52.6% in the best shooting outing of the young season.
"Again we found a way to make shots," Stansbury said. That included 14 shots beyond the arc, which tied State's all-time record set in 1996 and only repeated in 2000 and '04. Rookie Delk had five of those longballs in nine tries, to finish with 18 points, while Gordon and Edmondson had four apiece and junior forward Piotr Stelmach one. Gordon had a team-high 20 points, Edmondson 19, and Rhodes 11.
The Bulldogs had made just 29 treys in the previous six games. The Broncos also scored from long range with ten treys, with five by Angley as he scored 17 points. Forward Travis Niesen was the game's scoring champ with 22 points in 39 minutes, right at his season average. But Niesen was not a factor in overtime and missed a second free throw which would have put his team ahead with 24 seconds left in regulation.
"They're a real tough, experienced team," said Edmondson. "But in overtime we came out and shut them down."
Nobody was shutting anybody down in the first half, particularly from outside as both teams went wild at the arc combining for 15 treys in 31 tries. The Bulldogs had various leads of eight, seven, and six points in the period on marksmanship by Edmondson and Gordon, but Angley's accuracy kept the Broncos in contention. "Both teams have pretty good shooters as you could tell," said Edmondson. "It was just a matter of getting open. We had good shots in the first half and we knocked them down." Edmondson had to hit a looping jumper and Morgan block a Niesen attempt in the lane for State to lead 37-33 at intermission.
The second period was another matter as Santa Clara put the 6-7 Niesen in the high post to either drive the lane or kick out to open teammates. His short jumper tied the game 48-48 and the Broncos were able to get in front by four at 54-50 and 61-57. Each time fearless freshman Delk didn't hesitate to fire from deep on the right wing and both shots were good over the Bronco zone, keeping State within reach.
"I got good looks and knocked them down," Delk said. He also hit the tough trey at 1:41 that tied the game 63-63. Niesen put SC in front on a stroll down the lane-layup, 19 seconds later Gordon found himself unguarded on the left wing. "I'd been waiting for that, I saw them cheating over and Jamall kicked it out to me and I knocked it down."
At 66-65 he game could have ended either way in regulation. Mitch Henke missed but Niesen crashed for the rebound and was fouled at 0:24. His first free shot was good, the next not but the carom ended up in his hands and the Broncos called time with 19 ticks left. State extended the zone without letting the ball come in to Niesen—"we weren't going to change defenses" Stansbury said—and Angley had to settle for a moving jumper inside the arc that missed with Gordon clearing the rebound to force overtime.
"When overtime hit we took it up to another level," said Morgan, who snared ten of State's 42 rebounds. The Broncos collected 37 boards but had 16 on their own end and those second chances nearly cost the Dogs their day. Still Stansbury saw little to critique in the way his tired team responded to the challenge. "I'm awful proud of our kids' effort. When that game got tight and they went ahead, fatigue and maybe some doubt sets in. But we never folded.
"For the first time we had more assists than turnovers, for the first time we shot about 50%. Those are huge, particularly when you out-rebound them."
Now the Bulldogs get a real break, at least from competition, as they spend the week in final fall exams with minimal practices. State returns to play next Saturday with a 7:00 home game against Troy.