Ja'Vance Coleman lit up the scoreboard throughout the second half Thursday to give his Fresno State Bulldogs a second chance against Louisiana Tech.
But with the game on the line in overtime, Coleman sunk a pair of free throw with 12 seconds left to give Fresno an 84-81 win in the quarterfinals of the WAC Basketball Tournament at Lawlor Events Center.
Fresno, 16-13, now plays Nevada in Friday's 8:30 p.m. game.
"It's a simple statement, a tale of two halves," said Fresno coach Ray Lopes in describing his team's comeback.
In the first half Fresno struggled from the court, hitting only 38 percent of its shtos. In the second half, Fresno picked up the pace.
"We made a simple adjustment at halftime. It was a simple challenge," Lopes added.
Lopes said nothing was said at halftime; however, he felt his team played like boys in the first half, but he challenged them to be men in the second half.
Tech's coach Keith Richard agreed with Lopes' assessment.
""im glad you got a good game - really a game of two halves," he said.
Richard, though, said free throw shooting hurt Tech, especially down the stretch. Overall, Tech sunk 17-27 free throws.
The 6-foot-3 guard became the catalyst by leading Fresno out of the ashes of despair in erasing a 10-point halftime deficit. Then, Coleman swished a critical trey in overtime as Fresno battled Tech in a see-saw game.
Tech grabbed the early lead in overtime on Wayne Powell's 3-pointer, but Coleman tied the game with a long, arcing shot. Tech broke the tie when Paul Millsap sunk one of two free throws for a 78-77 Tech lead with 2:26 left in overtime.
Coleman became Mr. Clutch again when he drove down the middle and made a layup to give Fresno a lead it would never relinquish. Dreike Bouldin then put Fresno on top, 82-78, with a long 3-point bomb.
Coleman, who scored five points in the second half, led Fresno with 24 points.
Tech cut the lead to one point when Millsap converted one of two free throws with 58 seconds left.
Tech had one final shot to tie the game, but Donnell Allick's trey from top of the key bounced off the front of the rim with time expiring.
Coleman, a native of Fresno, rattled Tech for 10 points within the first five minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs' guard hit two treys, a layup and short jumper in the paint to cut Tech's lead to 50-49.
"They (Tech's defense) were jumping out a little more. They were keying on the ball screens," Coleman said. "This shows we're capable as uniting as one."
Fresno grabbed its first lead since early in the first half when Donovan Morris spun around two defenders and threw in an easy basket.
Fresno led by as many as six points, but Tech kept battling Fresno basket for basket. Tech narrowed the lead to 61-60, but Fresno surged ahead for another six point lead after Coleman worked the baseline for a tip-in.
Tech then bounced out to an 8-2 run to tie the game at 69 with 3:55 left in regulation play. Corey Dean's tip-in knotted the score. The lead changed twice before Tech tied the game on Allick's free throw with seven seconds left on the clock.
Fresno had one last shot, but Morris' long 3-pointer hit the rim and bounced off towards the Bulldogs' bench.
Fresno's win overshadowed four Tech players scoring in double figures. Besides Millsap, Daevon Haskins scored 16 points followed by Dean (12), Allick (11) and Wayne Powell (10).
Louisiana Tech controlled the first half tempo with better inside play and second attempts. At one time Tech led Fresno State by as many as 13 points, 37-24 with 3:31 remaining before halftime.
Tech had a 12-point lead reduced to five points before going on an 11-3 run.
Dean sunk a 20-foot jumper from the corner and then barreled down the middle for a layin. Tech's sophomore sensation Paul Millsap continued to work the inside causing Fresno's defense to collapse on him while leaving the perimeter open.
Eric Woods took a long 3-pont shot that gave Tech its biggest lead of the game.
The lead changed hands four times within the first five minutes of the first half. After Allick drained a long 3-point bomb, Tech started to pull away from Fresno. Allick later hit another trey in front of the Fresno bench to give Tech an eight point lead.
Fresno fell further behind and trailed by 10 points midway through the half.