LAS VEGAS — Fresno State used the 3-ball in its 76-70 victory over San Diego State on Saturday to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament, taking 16 of them in the first half, almost as many as it had in either of the full games against the Aztecs during the regular season.
The Bulldogs had taken 21 shots from the 3-point line in a victory at San Diego State to open conference play, and 19 in a rough loss to the Aztecs at the Save Mart Center.
In the first half of the tournament final, they made seven of the 16, which was more than enough to hurt and force the Aztecs to try to extend their defense, which opened up some lanes for Ki-Ki Moore and Taylor Thompson and anyone else with the inclination to get into the lane.
‘’Obviously, it was a great confidence booster for our team,’’ said the Bulldogs’ Rosie Moult, who made 3 of 5 3-pointers in the first half and 4 of 6 in the game. ‘’We’re a great 3-point shooting team. When you’re hitting them early, it always helps.’’
Fresno State had hit only 33.1% of its 3-point shots coming into the game, so “great” might be stretching it bit. But with Moult and Alex Sheedy both hitting three shots from the arc and Bree Farley adding another in that first half, it definitely impacted the game.
‘’Credit to Fresno State, they didn’t miss a shot,’’ the Aztecs’ Courtney Clements said. ‘’I don’t think that they missed. When they had an opportunity to knock down an open shot, they took the opportunity. All credit goes to them. They found the flaws in our defense and they did what they had to do.’’
The Bulldogs 12-0 run at the end of the first half started with 2:46 remaining when San Diego State point guard Chelsea Hopkins picked up a second foul and went to the bench.
Aztecs coach Beth Burns thought they could weather that final stretch. Turns out they couldn’t – or at the very least didn’t handle her absence it very well.
‘’Well, we have a lot of talented kids that do what they do well when you put it together,’’ Burns said. ‘’But Chelsea’s our Superwoman. You know, hindsight is 20/20. We can’t win this game without her. We’d been able to, even though we hadn’t done much of anything we set out to do, manage a game. And I thought for two minutes we could. But they’re a good team. They’re an aggressive team. Credit goes to them. But you can’t live backward. You’ve got to live forward.’’
The Bulldogs’ Taylor Thompson got flattened by a hard screen with nine minutes remaining in the game and was flat on her back for a few minutes before helped off the court and to the locker room.
She wasn’t gone long, and there wasn’t much doubt she would be returning to the floor at some point. ‘’You know what, no, not for me. I had a hard fall, but I didn’t want that to stop me from coming in and finishing the game off with my teammates,’’ Thompson said.
‘’It’s just Taylor,’’ coach Raegan Pebley said. ‘’I mean, I don’t know if that being Oklahoma, small town, fight for everything you’ve got blue collar. … There could have been somebody telling her back there, ‘You’re not playing.’ She would have stormed right past through them if it was possible.’’
Fresno State scored 45 points in the first half, the most ever in any half in a Mountain West Conference Women’s Tournament title game. Utah had scored 44 in the second half of the 2006 title game. … The Bulldogs made only 37.3% (25 of 67) of their shots against the Aztecs and managed to win the tournament championship despite not making even 40% in any of their games. They made only 36.4% (28 of 77) against Boise State in the quarterfinals and 37.5% (24 of 64) against Wyoming in the semifinals. They were outshot in every game. … Fresno State a tournament record with 40 steals in its three games – San Diego State had 31 in 2010. Rosie Moult had the record breaker, No. 32 coming when she stole a pass from Courtney Clements with 11:14 to go in the first half. … The Bulldogs also set a championship game record for free-throw shooting, hitting 17 of 18, 94.4%, which also is fifth best all-time in MW Women’s Tournament game.