March 14, 2014
|Head Coach Raegan Pebley |
|Senior G Taylor Thompson
By Jason Clay
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The No. 2 seed Fresno State women's basketball team pulled away late in the first half and early in the second from third-seeded Nevada and went on to win 82-71 Friday in the semifinals of the 2014 Reese's Mountain West Championship being played here at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Bulldogs (21-10) now advance to the title game of the conference tournament for the second-straight season in the Mountain West and seventh consecutive year overall. Fresno State will be playing Colorado State at 7 p.m. Saturday with the opportunity to clinch what would be its fourth-straight conference tournament championship and secure a berth to its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament.
The 2014 Reese's Mountain West Championship Game will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
"It's exciting," head coach Raegan Pebley said. "We're really blessed with a bunch of players that work hard at developing their skills and their versatility."
There have now been nine games played in the 2014 Reese's Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship and all but two of them have been decided by seven points or less. The two that were not were both of Fresno State's victories that were each by double-digits.
"We played well together tonight defensively and offensively," said senior guard Taylor Thompson, who led the team with 22 points. "You couldn't ask for a better team contribution."
The Bulldogs had five players score in double figures for the second-straight game. Moriah Faulk was huge off the bench for the Bulldogs, especially in the first half when she scored 15 of her 19 points in the game. She hit four 3-pointers and also had six rebounds and three steals in the win.
"I was just trying to take what the defense was giving me," Faulk said. "They were leaving me open in the high post. I was just taking open shots."
Fresno State hit 11 3-pointers in the game and had 17 assists on 26 total field goals.
"We moved the ball well and I think there were opportunities that our players didn't pass up that were good shot attempts, and the right players are taking them," Pebley said.
Bree Farley added 15 points, Robin Draper added 11 and Alex Sheedy had 10 points and seven rebounds. Draper was 3-for-3 on her 3-point attempts, as she busted out of a small shooting slump where she was 2-for-18 on 3-point attempts in her last four games.
After a tightly contested first half that featured 10 lead changes and three ties, the Bulldogs opened up a 19-point lead at the 12:12 mark of the second half.
It all started in the final three minutes of the first half, when Fresno State used a 10-0 run before halftime to take a 40-35 lead. The 'Dogs hit three 3-pointers in that run, two by Faulk.
Fresno State then started the second half on a 15-4 run to blow the game open.
"The first time we played Nevada, it was a score for score game," Farley said. "We knew if we got into that scrappy kind of game, it was going to be hard to finish. It was crucial for us to go into the second half with momentum. It just continued on for us."
Nevada was able to cut the Bulldog lead down to 10 at the 5:30 mark with a 16-7 run after the Bulldogs had gained that 19-point lead.
The lead did dip below 10 points twice in the final five minutes, but each time Fresno State responded to prevent Nevada from making another run.
Fresno State was 19-of-24 from the free-throw line, including going 15-of-18 in the second half to secure the victory.
Moriah Faulk scored 15 points in the first half, matching her total from Tuesday's quarterfinal victory over UNLV. Before the tournament, it had been 14 games since she scored over 15 points and that came on Jan. 15 vs. San Diego State.
There were 10 lead changes and three ties in the first half. The Bulldogs closed the half on a 10-0 run to lead 40-35. Fresno State then opened the second half on a 15-4 run.
The Bulldogs have now won seven-straight games overall this season.
Fresno State improves to 5-0 all-time in the Mountain West tournament. Additionally, the Bulldogs have now won 11 consecutive conference tournament games dating back to its time as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Fresno State advances to the championship game of the conference tournament for the seventh-straight season. It has won five of the previous six title games.
The Bulldogs had five players score in double figures for the second-straight game. In 29 regular season games, there were 13contests where four Bulldogs went for 10 or more points, but never five in the same game.
Fresno State is seeking to become the first back-to-back MW tournament champion since 2008, and third overall. New Mexico won three consecutive titles from 2003-05, and also won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. The Bulldogs have connected on at least 10 three-pointers in both of their MW tournament games this year. They made 10 in Tuesday's quarterfinal game vs. UNLV, and 11 today vs. Nevada. The 21 combined three-pointers are just five shy of the all-time MW tournament record of 26 set by Colorado State in 2001.
"Catch the Wave" - ESPN2 790 AM is the home of the Fresno State women's basketball team.
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