Bulldogs Capture Second-Straight MW Tourney Title
March 15, 2014
By Jason Clay
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Fresno State women's basketball team continued its March dominance, winning its fourth-straight conference tournament championship game to secure the programs seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Additionally, the Bulldogs (22-10) won their sixth conference tournament championship in seven years with Saturday's 77-68 victory over No. 1 seed Colorado State in the title game of the 2014 Reese's Mountain West Championship at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Bulldogs are the first back-to-back MW tournament champion since New Mexico won consecutive titles in 2007 and 2008. The Bulldogs are just the third team overall to repeat as MW tournament champions.
"No better people to turn to for big performances than [Bree Farley and Taylor Thompson]," head coach Raegan Pebley said. "They had a great supporting cast all the way down to our bench."
Fresno State's lone two seniors Bree Farley and Taylor Thompson - who are the only senior class in school history to win four conference tournament championships - led Fresno State from wire-to-wire. They combined for 49 points, Farley putting in a MW championship game record 26 points while Thompson went for 23.
Farley was named to the Mountain West All-Tournament team while Thompson was named the tournament MVP.
They hit nine of Fresno State's 10 3-pointers in the game, as the Bulldogs made 10 or more 3-pointers in all three of their tournament victories. Their 31 total 3-pointers set a new Mountain West tournament record.
"We came in confident tonight. We knew that we needed to hit," Thompson said when asked about the team's 3-point shooting. "I mean, we did a great job getting people open."
Farley had six rebounds while Thompson led the team with nine boards and she added seven assists.
"It's certainly a great feeling," Thompson said of winning a fourth-straight championship. "It definitely never gets old. It's awesome every year. It's something that you'll remember for the rest of your life."
Fresno State held CSU to 32.4 percent shooting on the night while the 'Dogs shot 42.6 percent. The Bulldogs were especially clutch in the second half, hitting 12-of-25 shots (48 percent) and 17-of-24 free-throws in the final 20 minutes.
Alex Sheedy contributed with 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half when she hit three of her four shots and all four free-throw attempts.
Fresno State opened up a 10 point lead in the first half after a 14-5 run that Thompson capped off with a 3-pointer at 8:40. However, CSU answered with a 12-6 run to cut Fresno State's lead down to four, 30-26 at the half.
The 'Dogs then started the second half with another run - this one 15-8 - to take a 45-34 lead with 14:27 left in the game. Thompson and Farley fueled that run with five points apiece.
CSU then made three runs at the Bulldogs over the next eight minutes, but Fresno State found a way to answer each one to keep the momentum from switching.
"I think it does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs, because if you're not experienced you can get really frazzled in that type of situation," Farley said when asked about how the team's experience in conference tournament championship games helped them Saturday against the feisty Colorado State team. "Us being more experienced, we learned to like accept the runs and not freak out."
After back-to-back buckets from the Rams, Thompson and Farley countered with consecutive 3-pointers of their own.
CSU then scored five-straight points to pull within seven before Thompson drained another three - her fifth of the game - at 9:52 that put Fresno State back up 10, 54-44.
The third Ram rally was a 7-2 run that pulled Colorado State to within five, 56-51, with 5:20 left in the game.
This time Robin Draper countered with a 3-pointer, her first basket of the game, to start a 7-0 Bulldog run that put Fresno State up 63-51 and carried the 'Dogs the rest of the way to the championship.
"Well, we've talked a lot about this season, just an IQ with the game that I like our team to understand and not fear runs, know that we're going to go on runs," Pebley said. "The system that we play does create runs. There are very good teams in our conference, and very good teams will go on their own runs. You can't be surprised when that happens because they are a good team."
The ESPN Selection Monday Special to announce 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket airs from 4-5 p.m. on Monday.
"Catch the Wave" - ESPN2 790 AM is the home of the Fresno State women's basketball team.