By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
FRESNO, Calif. --- The Fresno State men's basketball team went blow-for-blow and nearly toppled No. 16/15 San Diego State on Wednesday night at the Save Mart Center before falling 65-62 in the final minutes.
The Bulldogs, who were fueled by an aggressive 18 points and seven rebounds by senior forward Kevin Foster, outscored the Aztecs 36-32 in the second half to respond to a seven-point halftime deficit.
"I was really proud of the effort that we had tonight," Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "Our guys really competed. That was the one thing going into the ball game tonight that I challenged our guys. I wanted to see our guys go out and compete and have each others' backs and be great teammates and leave it all out there on the floor and I thought our guys did that for a better part of the entire game."
Fresno State trailed by 10 in the second half before rallying to take a 62-61 lead with 2:45 left. The Aztecs (13-2, 1-0) hit two free throws to go back on top and then Franklin made two more with 18.1 seconds left to seal the win.
Kevin Olekaibe added 15 points, including all four of his free throw attempts, for Fresno State (6-8, 0-1) who as a team went 82.4 percent (14-for-17) at the free throw line.
Trailing 47-37 with 13:14 left, Fresno State came back behind Olekaibe. His 3-pointer from the corner with 5:36 left cut the deficit to 58-56. He then made another 3 with 2:45 left to put the Bulldogs ahead, their first lead since midway through the first half.
After Franklin's two free throws, Marvelle Harris' potential tying 3-pointer glanced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
It was the first meeting between San Diego State and Fresno State as conference members since 1999, when both were in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Aztecs were without point guard Xavier Thames, who missed the game with a strained lower back. Shepard, a 6-foot-8 freshman, started in Thames' place.
The Bulldogs also lost junior guard Tyler Johnson to an ankle injury in the early part of the first half. His status is listed as day-to-day and questionable for Saturday's game at New Mexico.
"I thought our crowd was tremendous," Terry said of a season-best 7,203 fans that rocked the Save Mart Center down the stretch. "I thought our crowd was great and if we can continue to have this kind of home court where we have our fans come out and see this caliber of basketball and come out and support this team. I've said it all year, if you just stay behind this group. This is a group that is a work in progress. They play extremely hard and they are getting better, we've gotten better."
Fresno State continues MW play on Saturday afternoon in Albuquerque when the Bulldogs visit the Pit to take on the New Mexico at noon PT. The game will be broadcast on KM 580 AM radio and the audio feed will be available online at www.gobulldogs.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" --- Fresno State's 4-Game Flex Mini-Plan starts as low as $14 per game and can be purchased by calling 559-278-DOGS (Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.) or visiting www.gobulldogs.com/miniplan. The flagship radio stations for Fresno State men's basketball are KMJ 580 AM (English) and ESPN Deportes 1600 AM (Spanish).
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