Jemarl Baker leads Fresno State men’s basketball in last-minute victory against Wyoming in Mountain West opener

It looked like the Fresno State men’s basketball team was losing Wednesday’s game at the Save Mart Center after Wyoming came back from a double-digit deficit. The Cowboys were up by two in the final two minutes.

But when Bulldog guard Jemarl Baker subbed in, he backed down a Cowboy defender in the paint for an easy bucket to tie the game. Although Wyoming responded with another layup to regain the lead, Baker hit a crucial 3-pointer to get the Bulldogs ahead in the final minute of the game.

Fresno State fans cheered because they knew it was over by that point as the ‘Dogs walked away with a 58-53 victory over the Cowboys in the Mountain West Conference play opener.

Baker led the ‘Dogs in scoring with 20 points, shooting 8-for-15 from the field and 4-for-7 beyond the arc. He remained humble about his clutch shot in the paint.

“I just tried to do what I can,” he said.

Fresno State guard Jemarl Baker shoots a corner 3 in the second half of the game. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

“I just tried to stay aggressive when I got back in. I tried to stay locked in when I was out, cheering the team on, and tried to keep everybody’s energy up,” Baker added.

Fresno State came out with one of the most energetic starts of the season, making six of its first nine shots. The first bucket came from Baker with a 3.

Wyoming responded with each play, but the ‘Dogs were giving a showtime performance in the first several minutes, with a dunk fest for the big men inside the paint.

After Baker’s 3-pointer, Bulldog center Isiah Moore followed it up with an alley-oop dunk, with an assist by guard Isaiah Hill. After Bulldog Antony Holland hit a difficult step back mid-ranger, Baker threw the ball up in the air for another Moore alley-oop dunk.

Fresno State was leading 9-6 in the first five minutes of the game. Wyoming did not waver and continued to respond with an efficient offensive, taking easy layups and wide-open 3s, tying it up at 14-14, with 10 minutes left of the first half.

However, Bulldog center Eduardo Andre responded with an offensive rebound and a posterizer over Wyoming’s big man, sending the Red Wave up on his feet cheering. Wyoming got its first lead, 18-16, after Andre’s play, but the momentum carried on for the Bulldogs as they followed it up with a 17-4 run.

Within that run, Moore had a mid-range jumper and another pair of dunks, keeping the energy up for the ‘Dogs.

Fresno State Head Coach Justin Hutson said it was an “abnormal game plan” for Bulldog centers Moore and Andre because Wyoming decided to play five shooters, forcing Hutson to sub his big men in and out throughout the game.

“I was proud of them tonight because it was a tough matchup because their man was running around the 3-point line… Our [centers] are used to playing in the key and don’t get out to the 3 but I’m proud that they did a good job on that and stuck with it,” Hutson said.

Bulldogs Leo Colimerio and Eduardo Andre help up teammate Donavan Yap after getting fouled in the paint. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Fresno State went into halftime with a 38-25 lead.

In the second half, the energy fell off for the ‘Dogs and the Cowboys were using it to slowly chip away at their lead, but they also struggled. Compared to the first half where they were scoring over 50% from the field, the Bulldogs shot 6-for-31 and shot 2 of 16 from beyond the arc in the second half.

“I think we just got a little stagnant. I mean, it happens throughout games. Teams are going to go on runs,” Baker said.

Wyoming made a jumper to make it 46-32; Fresno State still led with 15 minutes left in the game. However, both teams were unable to score for the next five minutes of the game.

Wyoming broke the cold streak with a 6-0 run of its own, forcing a Fresno State timeout with nine minutes left of the game.

Hutson said he saw his team throw multiple “desperation shots” from the 3 and had to call a timeout to encourage his team to remain calm.

“Everybody, the Red Wave was frustrated. We were frustrated. Players got a little frustrated and I had to call a timeout [to tell them], ‘There’s no time to be frustrated. Move on to the next play,’” he said.

Moore followed the timeout and broke the ‘Dogs’ scoreless streak with another alley-oop dunk while getting fouled by the Cowboys. Knocking down the free throw, Moore extended the lead, 49-38.

Fresno State Isiah Moore dunks over Wyoming defender, with around 17 minutes left in the second half. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

But after a Wyoming 3 and a shot inside the paint, reducing the lead to single digits, Fresno State called its second timeout. It did not stop Wyoming’s run, as it went on a 13-2 scoring spree to lead the game at 51-49, with around 3 minutes left.

Baker responded with an offensive comeback for the ‘Dogs, starting with a backdown post move, tying at 51-51. The Cowboys looked to take the lead, but Bulldog guard Leo Colimerio blocked a shot attempt from beyond the arc.

“I’m really glad that we all stuck together and nobody faded away. We were all missing shots and nobody got anything but we stood together on the defensive end of the floor,” Colimerio said.

Fresno State guard Leo Colimerio throws a baseline pass to a teammate in the corner. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Wyoming responded with another bucket, leading 53-51.

After a missed shot attempt from Fresno State, Bulldog guard Jordan Campbell snatched an offensive board to give Baker his last-minute 3-pointer, regaining the lead for the ‘Dogs, 54-53, with two minutes left of the game.

Baker highlights Colimerio and Campbell’s performances in the final minutes. The ‘Dogs’ defense kept the Cowboys scoreless, as they walked away with a 58-53 victory.

“We made our free throws, so we did a good job, in the end, executing. Sometimes the ball just goes in or it doesn’t but I liked how we executed,” Hutson said

Fresno State men’s basketball huddle in the final seconds of the game. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

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