After two missed opportunities to get over the 20-win hump, the Bulldogs finally accomplished the feat, putting another great mark on Justin Hutson’s first season in Fresno. The 71-60 win over Wyoming also moves Fresno State back into 3rd place in the conference, and guarantees them a first round bye in the upcoming conference tournament. Not bad for a team under a first year coach that came into the season with a lot of questions behind Deshon Taylor.
The biggest storyline as the night went on was Braxton Huggins, again. He went on a tear during the game, tying the school record for made 3-point shots with 8 makes on 19 attempts. This game was all about shots from the outside, and the two teams combined for 65 attempts, with Fresno State putting up 41 by themselves. Sure, they only made 30% of the shots, but it showed the difficulty at driving into the paint both teams had that they had to take so many outside shots. It’s hard to overstate how big Huggins has been for the Bulldogs this year, and the former New Mexico State star has cemented himself as a fan favorite, and is the team’s leading scorer. His experience and success at NMSU has helped this team find its groove when they need it most. He’s another chapter in the recent Fresno State story of bringing Valley players home, and finding success. Pair him with Marcus McMaryion, and the last two years have been huge for Valley kids finding their way home to the Bulldogs.
Justin James remained as the bright spot in a lost season for Wyoming, dropping 27 points, and really stating his case for being All-MWC at the end of the season. It’s going to be a really crowded list with Nevada, Fresno State, and Utah State all playing so well, but it’s hard to overlook the impact the Justin James has had for the Cowboys this year.
For anyone that just looked at the final score, they would have missed a good first half between the two teams. Wyoming was able to keep pace through most of the first, and even took a quick lead early on. Things stayed close, before Fresno poured on some late buckets to stretch their halftime lead to 9. The second half would be more of Fresno State keeping the Cowboys at arm’s length, never really allowing them to threaten. Deshon Taylor, Nate Grimes, and Braxton Huggins controlled the tempo and offense, both pitching in for 15 points. So combined, they equaled Braxton Huggins’ explosive night. Where Grimes has continued to shine is on the glass. He’s still the conference’s second leading rebounder behind Nico Carvacho, but he did grab 14 boards last night. The ability to snag rebounds like that is going to be key for the Dogs if they want to make any sort of run in the postseason.
The Bulldogs have now won 20 or more games in 4 straight seasons, and will hope to increase those numbers with games left against San Diego State and San Jose State. Getting a win over the Aztecs will provide vital separation in the standings, plus it’s always good to get a season sweep over a rival. The game against the Aztecs will be televised, while no one wants to watch San Jose State flail on TV, so that game will be relegated to the Internet.