March 21, 2014
By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
LOS ANGELES - Fresno State has been in the underdog role before - six times to be exact in its last six NCAA Tournament appearances.
Technically speaking, the Bulldog women's basketball team is in that role again this season as a No. 13 seed slotted to face No. 4 seed and 13th-ranked Nebraska on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
After falling in the first round of the Big Dance in each of the past six seasons, the Bulldogs are not giving one thought to being in the underdog role. They solely are focused on themselves and making history as they look for the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.
"In preparation for Nebraska, we are just trying to prepare for them like we have every game this year," senior guard Taylor Thompson said at Friday's press conference before the Bulldogs' final practice prior to facing off against Nebraska in Pauley Pavilion (game is being televised on ESPN2).
"They are going to be a tough team and we are just going to play our basketball. We are trying to focus on us and not get overwhelmed with the whole NCAA Tournament and them having `Nebraska' across their chest. We are definitely focusing on them, but our focus is mainly on us and playing the best that we can tomorrow."
Head coach Raegan Pebley's message to the team is to keep their thoughts internal.
"Well, I've never really bought into it," Pebley said of the underdog role. "I've never really tried to focus too much on what other people think of you, as a team and as a player. You know what you've invested and you know what you're capable of doing, so whether you're the underdog or the team expected to win. Whether we were the preseason team picked first or not--don't focus on that. That gets you nowhere. That gets you nothing. You don't even get a plaque that says `You were the underdog, congratulations' or `You were picked first, congratulations.'
"You just have to focus on what you know you're capable of doing and tune out what everyone else is saying. There's plenty of other things we need to be focused on instead of what other people think."
For Thompson and fellow senior Bree Farley, they hope to use their past NCAA experiences to their advantage and get that first ever win in the Big Dance.
"This is our seventh time here now and I know that we are so hungry for a win," Farley said. "I think our players are happy to be here - who wouldn't be - but we are not content with that. We are definitely looking for a win tomorrow and we believe we can do it."
Fresno State enters Saturday's first round game riding an eight-game winning streak - its longest in two seasons under Pebley.
"We are not trying to change too much since we are playing Nebraska," Thompson said. "We still want to play our style. They are a good team, they are big, but I think we have a good shot of playing well against them."
"Catch the Wave" - ESPN2 790 AM is the home of the Fresno State women's basketball team.
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