By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
FRESNO, Calif. --- There is no other way to put it than Fresno State sputtered from the get-go, rallied back, but ran out of time to complete another comeback and suffered a 75-70 loss to Louisiana Tech on Thursday night at the Save Mart Center.
"I give a lot of credit to Louisiana Tech," Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "We knew we had a confident team coming in [here]. This time of year, just like I said to our guys, you can't throw away 20 minutes of a ball game where you don't come out and execute. You're not going to be in control of making shots every night but you sure can control your defense and your effort and that was the disappointing part with us tonight."
That disappointment was partly rooted in the fact that Terry knows his team can compete with more urgency and execute at a much higher level than they showed on Thursday night before a season-high an announced 10,012 fans - the largest to watch a Bulldogs' home game in three years.
"I want to thank our community for coming out tonight and also congratulate our Coach Wiggins and the women's team for securing their fifth straight WAC championship," Terry said. "We had a chance to play in front of a great crowd and didn't hold up our end. That's never going to be acceptable in our program. We have to regroup quickly and now focus on being a better team by Saturday night."
The Bulldogs (13-18, 3-10 WAC) will have less than 48 hours to turn things around when they host New Mexico State in Fresno State's final regular season game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
"We have a tremendous challenge ahead with New Mexico State coming in," Terry said. "We are taking it one day at a time, just like we have all year long. But we know what we have to do."
Fresno State, who locked in the No. 7 seed for next week's WAC Tournament by falling to LA Tech and will face either Idaho or New Mexico State in the next Thursday's quarterfinals, trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half after missing 17 of its first 20 shots. The 22-point deficit was the Bulldogs' largest this season during the first 20 minutes.
"When you let a team shoot 63 percent in the first half, you're not going to win very many games," Terry noted.
Trevor Gaskins helped spark Louisiana Tech to its fifth consecutive victory with a team-best 16 points, including 10 in the first half.
Raheem Appleby added 15 points for LA Tech (16-14, 6-7 WAC), which swept Fresno State in a season series for the first time since 2005-06.
Jonathan Wills scored a team-high 16 points for Fresno State (13-18, 3-10) to lead three Bulldogs in double figures. Garrett Johnson tallied 12 points and Tyler Johnson added 10 for the 'Dogs, who lost their fourth straight conference contest.
After trailing 39-23 at halftime, Fresno State opened the second half with a 12-4 surge as Kevin Foster's put-back trimmed Louisiana Tech's lead to 44-37.
A seven-point flurry by Garrett Johnson and a three-point play by Wills cut Louisiana Tech's lead to 57-53 with 7:13 remaining, but Kenneth Smith answered with a 3, boosting Louisiana Tech's lead to seven with 6:51 left.
Fresno State never seriously threatened again until the waning minute when a flurry of fouls and a series of defensive stops kept the outcome in doubt until LA Tech's Raheem Apple drained four free throws to help fend off the 'Dogs rally.
"I credit Fresno [State] once again defensively," LA Tech coach Michael White said. "They're really good, they're really solid, they swarmed the ball and when Appleby put the ball down, it seemed like there were three guys in front of him forcing him to make the extra pass... Fresno State has the discipline and veteran guards that really sit down in stance and get after you."
Fresno State earned a 19-6 advantage on second chance points and 16-12 edge for points off turnovers, but just didn't hit enough shots when it counted and LA Tech found the bottom of the net at every crucial moment.
"We can't let our offense dictate our defense and I think that is what happened in the first half," Wills said. "Shots weren't falling in and it seemed like we were playing defense just to get back on offense and we can't do that. We aren't going to beat anyone playing like that."
Wills and fellow senior Steven Shepp will play their last regular games as part of Saturday night's season finale and will be honored prior to the game.
"We Are Your Team!" --- The `Dogs close the regular season by hosting New Mexico State on Saturday night at 7 p.m. PT. It is the Bulldogs' "Senior Night" and will honor Steven Shepp and Jonathan Wills prior to the game and features a special $21 single-game ticket package that also includes a hot dog and medium soda. You can listen to the 'Dogs all season on the radio dial at KMJ 580 AM. Make sure to also follow @RodneyTerry on Twitter for updates direct from the head coach.
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