Nov. 8, 2013
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State women's basketball team (1-0) kicked off the season with impressive offensive and defensive efforts in its 74-50 victory over UC Merced (0-1) Friday night at the Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs relied on a balanced mix of veteran and new faces to roll to a convincing victory and showcased its familiar aggressive styles on offense and defense.
"The team had moments of great intensity, but also times where we had lapses and needed to sustain our effort better," Bulldog head coach Raegan Pebley said. "I liked how different people stepped up and contributed at various times. Our depth is a strength, and it showed that everyone is accountable and committed to each other and being a leader."
The `Dogs were equally impressive from behind the three-point arc as six different players hit treys, and the squad combined for a 37.5 percent combined clip (compared with a 42 percent overall field goal percentage for the game).
"I liked how we shot three-pointers, especially early," Pebley said, "although our three-point defense was lacking. At the half, I challenged them to diversify our offense and get the ball inside more, and we were more effective."
Conversely, the Bulldog defense limited the Bobcats to 26.2 percent shooting from the field, and also dominated team comparisons in rebounds (47-33), assists (21-7) and blocks (5-0), and made only one more turnover (13-12).
"I liked our assist to turnover ratio," Pebley said. "We also had a lot of second-chance opportunities but didn't convert as many as we needed to. We had 19 offensive rebounds but should have had more free throws attempted."
Senior guard Bree Farley topped Fresno State in points (16) thanks to her 7-of-12 field-goal shooting, and her career high-tying nine rebounds left her just shy of the double-double.
"I was really excited to be able to contribute in various ways," Farley said. "My role has changed a little since last year - the coaches have asked me to be more assertive, and I was able to do that tonight offensively."
Two other `Dogs ended with double-digit kill totals - junior forward Alex Sheedy (11 points) and sophomore center Jacinta Vandenberg (10 points). The latter player not only tied her career high in points, but also topped the team in blocks (3) and added seven rebounds.
Starting guard and returning All-MW Third-Team pick Taylor Thompson added six points, five assists and five rebounds in her 24 minutes of play.
Among the team's newcomers, redshirt sophomore guard Moriah Faulk posted an impressive assist-turnover ratio (9:1) and ended with eight points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.
One of five players that subbed in and saw 10 minutes of action or more, junior guard and Fresno product Robin Draper topped Bulldog reserves in scoring (8) and was one of three `Dogs to make a pair of three-pointers with Farley and Faulk.
Sophomore center Toni Smith boosted the team's presence in the paint with five rebounds in eight minutes of duty.
UC Merced's Shelby Howard led players from both squads in scoring (20), thanks to her 5-of-8 three-point shooting.
Among other Bobcat starters, Courtney Danna added 14 points and three assists, and forward Danielle Ward topped the rebounds category (5) and chipped in six points.
"Merced plays hard and showed good execution," Pebley said. "Coach Pham has a good system in place. We got to face a lot of zone defense tonight, and we were still able to often respond effectively."
Friday's outcome gave the second-year Bulldog mentor her first season-opening win with the program. Last year in her debut, the team succumbed at then-No. 4 Stanford by a still-commendable score of 72-61 to the eventual NCAA Tournament top seed.
Looking ahead, Fresno State next hosts USC on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. Promotions-wise, the matinee tilt is `Bring A Kid to the Game' Day as every adult ticket purchased qualifies for a free youth ticket.
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