By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
FRESNO, Calif. --- The pain soaked through the Bulldogs' eyes when they walked off the floor following Saturday night's 83-78 overtime loss to New Mexico State at the Save Mart Center.
"These guys have to understand how important every possession is and what it means," first-year Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "Until we take that step again and finish plays, finish games, that's the next step for us. We have a new season now with the [WAC] tournament coming up. I know our guys are pretty excited about having another opportunity and we'll be ready for it."
Fresno State (13-19, 3-11 WAC) came out swinging in the heavyweight bout and season finale with the Aggies. The 'Dogs played its best first half of the season and blazed out to a 16-point halftime lead at 41-25 only to fall flat in the second half and let NMSU chip away behind solid efforts from Wendell McKines and Bandja Sy.
"I thought we came out with tremendous effort, especially the first half the way we executed both offensively and defensively, but in the second half we came out and we had too many lapses on the defensive end as well as offensively we had some plays that took a lot out of us in terms of finishing plays."
Sy scored all 22 of his points in the second half and overtime as New Mexico State stormed back to set up a quarterfinal rematch in next Thursday at 2:30 p.m. during the opening day of the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
McKines, the WAC's regular season scoring champion, added 20 points for New Mexico State, including 11 in overtime, as the Aggies (23-9, 10-4 WAC) overcame a 19-point deficit in the final 16:27 of regulation.
"You have to give credit to Rodney and his guys," NMSU head coach Marvin Menzies said. I mean he has done a fantastic job with this group and their record is no indication of the heart and the character and the execution and system that they're using right now; it is very productive for what they have and they've just fallen a few games short and we have to be ready to face up again against them on Thursday."
The Bulldogs' Jonathan Wills helped send the game into overtime by hitting a 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left in regulation and fellow senior Steven Shepp dished out six more assists and wrapped up the year by playing the most minutes of any player in the WAC.
Wills and Shepp were both honored before the game and were each escorted onto the court by their family and presented a framed jersey.
"We Are Your Team!" -- Fresno State will face New Mexico State on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in Quarterfinal action at the 2012 WAC Tournament. Follow the Bulldogs live from Las Vegas on KMJ 580 AM and KAIL 7.2.
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