The good and bad about the Fresno State women’s basketball team’s performance

With a 69-65 win against New Mexico on Saturday, the Fresno State women’s basketball team won its third straight game, stayed undefeated at home and moved to 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play.

But not all was good for the Bulldogs as their lack of an aggressive, physical play down low almost cost them.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 17 points and owned a double-digit lead for roughly half of the game, yet nearly squandered the lead by allowing the Lobos to hang around with second-chance opportunities.

Rosie Moult has started to find a comfort zone in the Bulldogs’ new system, which emphasizes smart and patient halfcourt play.

New Mexico outrebounded Fresno State 42-25 and owned a 20-10 advantage on offensive rebounds. The Lobos finished with 15 points on second-chance possessions compared to the Bulldogs’ 10 second-chance points.

A repeat performance against other teams in the Mountain West could ruin Fresno State’s flawless conference record and quest to win the conference title in the Bulldogs’ first year in the league. Teams in the Mountain West are bigger and more physical than competition from the Western Athletic Conference (Fresno State’s previous conference) typically offered in past seasons.

The problem for the Bulldogs, though, if that they’re young inside and get pushed around rather easily.

But the good news for Fresno State is that the majority of the players seem to be adapting quite well to the new system of late, and the coaching staff apparently made some adjustments to better utilize its inherited talent. Specifically: getting the ball to their shooters when they’re not pressured.

Fresno State, after all, always was a team that launched 3-pointers at will, and the roster came equipped with long-distance shooters like Rosie Moult and Ki-Ki Moore.

So it makes sense that the Bulldogs’ recent string of success is because their outside shooters have gotten the ball in better position and better spacing to fire away.

Too close for comfort? Wiggins’ return might make it awkward for Pebley

Fresno State women’s basketball players expressed much excitement about their former coach Adrian Wiggins returning to town.

Wiggins, the popular coach who helped transform Fresno State into an annual conference champion and a regular in the NCAA Tournament, might even come to a Fresno State game this season if his schedule permits.

Ex-Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins after the Bulldogs won the WAC Tournament last year and advanced to a fifth straight NCAA Tournament.

He certainly would like to.

But would Wiggins’ return to the Save Mart Center create too much of a distraction for Fresno State?

Wiggins left Fresno State in March to coach at Ole Miss. Seven months later, he was fired. Then earlier this week, Wiggins resurface in Fresno by becoming the Clovis East High boys basketball coach starting next season.

Wiggins still remains much beloved by Fresno State players (many who he recruited), fellow coaches and administrators at the university and with Bulldogs fans.

Meanwhile, it’s obviously been a trying time for the Bulldogs while adjusting to new coach Raegan Pebley and the new system that focuses more on halfcourt play rather than the run-and-gun tempo and carefree, 3-point launching style that Fresno State once flourished with under Wiggins.

Fresno State did start to gain some traction lately and began Mountain West play with a huge road win at San Diego State, which was the preseason-conference favorite.

But until Pebley and her Bulldogs prove that they can succeed at least at the same rate as Wiggins and his Bulldogs did — maybe even win a game at the NCAA Tournament since that was one area Wiggins’ teams couldn’t achieve — there’ll be a portion of Fresno State fans who will want Wiggins back as the Fresno State women’s basketball coach.

First-year Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley has guided the Bulldogs to a 9-5 start, including a big win at San Diego State to start Mountain West play.

It definitely makes for a unique, if not an awkward situation for Pebley as she tries to establish her own place in the program, with her players and with the community.

Fresno State athletic director Thomas Boeh compared the Wiggins-Pebley situation to a retired coach staying in town while the new coach takes over.

Except in this case, the “retired coach” still has plenty of institutional knowledge, remains in the peak of his coaching

career, and has much support from many people.
“It’s mostly common for folks who’ve left a position to take a step back as a courtesy to the profession and to the program,” Boeh said. “We are very, very happy to have Raegan Pebley as our basketball coach. She’s a very high quality coach. We think she’s going to have terrific success.”