Dogs Finish Historic Season at NCAA Tournament
LaShay Fears drives against Cal's Natasha Vital (AP Photo/Francis Specker)
LaShay Fears drives against Cal's Natasha Vital (AP Photo/Francis Specker)

March 21, 2009

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There's a saying "all good things must come to an end."

While that may have been the case for the 2008-09 Bulldog women's basketball team on Saturday night, there's no doubt that this is not the end for Fresno State and coach Adrian Wiggins. The future is very bright.

Fresno State lost its NCAA tournament opening round game against No. 12 Cal in a match-up of teams allotted for the Trenton Regional. The Dogs were the No. 13 seed in the region, while the Bears were the No. 4 seeded team. Cal won 70-47 at the Galen Center on the USC campus.

Bulldog guard LaShay Fears matched her career-high of 18 points in the game, making good on 6-of-9 field goal attempts. She was the only Bulldog in double figures. She showcased her athletic ability against a team that has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation this season.

For the two-time defending WAC champion Bulldogs, this was one loss in a terrific season.

"We can still appreciate we won 24 games and we were WAC champions," said Fears. "We appreciate that."

Wiggins has led the Dogs to the only two NCAA tournament appearances in school history. The building blocks of talented players both already in the program and those committed to attending Fresno State, will no doubt allow Wiggin's prediction for NCAA tournament wins to come true in the near future.

"We have a great group of young ladies and a lot of good players returning next year," said Wiggins. "I'm excited about where our program's at right now. What you have to do is look at who we play. I've been voting on the coaches' poll all year so I know the caliber of team Cal is. They've been in the Top 10 the whole year. We have to become a team that through our non-conference schedule needs to improve our seed in the tournament. We're thankful where we are at and we will continue to grow. But, we need to move down into a 10 seed, a nine seed and go from there. We will get it done."

The nation's top three point shooting team, the Bulldogs could not muster much of a perimeter game. Fresno State made 4-of-18 three point attempts in the game. The Dogs entered the game leading the NCAA at 9.5 threes per game.

The Bulldogs trailed by nine points 30-21 at the half, the largest margin of the game for the Bears in the half. Fresno State shot just 33% from the floor in the half and had made just one three-point field goal on five attempts.

The Bears started the second half on a 14-2 run to take a 44-23 lead. Fresno State battled but could not recover from such a large deficit.

Fresno State attacked on the boards against the much bigger Bear line-up, earning a slight edge 38-36. The Dogs led the WAC in rebound margin this season.

Fresno State's leading scoring Jaleesa Ross, held scoreless in the first half, got on the board with 9:20 mark in the second half when she drained a three pointer.

"They (Cal) did a good job of putting pressure on our perimeter and stopped us from doing some of the things we like to do," said Wiggins. "We missed a lot of layups. We had too many opportunities we missed and that took confidence away from us early in the game. Cal can match-up with any team in the country and we battled them and matched up against them defensively. It's hard to analyze after a loss, but I'm excited about that."

Ross, just a sophomore, is the two-time WAC Tournament MVP and has been Fresno State's leading scorer for the majority of the season at 13.8 points per game. She finished with eight points in the game.

"Give credit to Fresno State," said Cal coach Joanne Boyle. "They came in with a great game plan and played hard. Adrian (Wiggins) has done a great job with that team. Our goal was to survive and advance and that's what it is."

Fresno State (24-9, 12-4 in the WAC) capped an historic season, with a school-record tying 24 victories, second straight WAC regular season and tournament championship, and once again among the West Coast leaders in fan attendance. It marked the second straight NCAA tournament appearance for the Bulldogs, who have won 24 games in two of the last three seasons.

The Dogs return all-five starters next season led by Ross and Hayley Munro, both All-WAC selections, and Joh-Teena Filipe, Marnique Arnold and Fears.

Join the State - Fresno State! The Bulldogs concluded the 2008-09 season in the NCAA Tournament Trenton Regional against the No. 12 Cal Bears. Follow for more Bulldog women's basketball news.



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