In the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 3 Utah Utes beat the No. 14 Fresno State Bulldogs, 80-69, on Thursday night in Denver. The Utes dominated this game except for 30 seconds in the second half when Fresno State held a point lead.
The Utes had an 11-point lead at the half but Fresno State caught fire after halftime to take the lead before Utah just ran away with this game.
Fresno State Struggles in First Half, Can't Overcome
When you look at the shooting stats, it doesn't look like it was a bad game for the Bulldogs. That's because it wasn't on the offensive end where the Dogs lost this one, but moreso on the glass.
The Bulldogs were out-rebounded by Utah by a blistering 23 boards. Utah finished with 38 rebounds, and Coach Rodney Terry's Bulldogs finished with just 15 rebounds the entire game.
Fresno State actually shot well in this one, finishing with a 49 percent mark overall from the field. Both teams finished with identical 38 percent marks from beyond the arc. The Dogs also forced 20 turnovers on the Utes, including 15 steals against Utah in the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Senior guard Marvelle Harris played well again for the Dogs, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 8-16 shooting to go along with four boards, six assists and a pair of steals in his last game in a Fresno State uniform.
Julien Lewis had 14 points on a 5-11 clip, and Karachi Edo had the tough task of guarding Utah big man Jakob Poeltl. Edo finished the contest with 14 points on a productive 7-9 mark from the field, also adding three boards, a pair of steals and three blocked shots.
Paul Watson scored 11 of Fresno State's 12 bench points on the night, and Cezar Guerrero and Cullen Russo combined to shoot just 2-8 from the field with seven turnovers between the both of them. Russo did add six steals on the night, leading the Dogs in that category.
The Bulldogs did lead at one point in the second half thanks in part to a couple big shots by Julien Lewis, but Utah responded and never looked back from that point on.
The Bulldogs season is now over, but Coach Terry's team has nothing to hang their heads about. The Bulldogs weren't supposed to finish second in the Mountain West, yet alone beat San Diego State twice in three meetings, or receive the automatic bid for the conference.
Jakob Poeltl can't be stopped
Coming into this game, the big focus for Fresno State was stopping big man sophomore Jakob Poeltl. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, no combination of players could stop the 7-footer, who is almost surely going to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Poeltl out-rebounded Fresno State all by himself. The big man had a career-high 18 rebounds, which was four more than the Bulldogs had in the entire game. That about says it all right there. There simply was no answer for Poeltl, who added 16 points on 5-11 from the field in 36 minutes.
The Utes had three other players, all starters, who finished the game in double-figures.
Guard Lorenzo Bonam had 17 points and four boards to go with his three dimes on a very efficient 7-10 shooting. Jordan Loveridge continued his impressive play with 16 points on 4-9 from the field, and Brandon Taylor scored 16 points on a 4-8 clip.
Coming into the game, a lot of people had doubts with this Utah team, especially after getting ran out of the gym against Oregon in the PAC-12 Title game this past weekend. Utah responded in a big way, and will move on to the Round of 32.
The Utes shot 54 percent from the field as well as 86 percent from the free throw line. After the Bulldogs took the lead in the second half, Utah went on a monster 17-2 run to take a double-digit lead with just a few minutes left to play.
It's fair to say Utah was inspired after getting wrecked by Oregon last weekend, and came out clicking on all cylinders.
Fresno State will head home and start to prepare for next season, but with their heads help high. Although they will lose a few seniors, most notably Marvelle Harris, the Bulldogs have a lot of players returning next season and will remain a threat in the declining Mountain West Conference.
Utah will hang around for a while to see who they play next, as Gonzaga and Seton Hall tipped off just shortly after the conclusion of this game. The Utes will play the winner in Denver on Saturday.