Fresno State women’s basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament notebook

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.’’

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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.

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Fresno State women will try to steal a Mountain West Conference Tournament title

LAS VEGAS – Fresno State kept up the pressure at the defensive end on Friday in a 63-62 victory over Wyoming in a semifinal game at the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which is a bit of a misnomer because the Bulldogs pressure the length of the floor and not just at one end.

They had 14 steals, giving them 31 in two conference tournament games, tying a record set by San Diego State in three games in 2010. The Bulldogs and Aztecs will play for the championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Ki-Ki Moore, the defensive player of the year in the conference, had five steals against Wyoming. Rosie Moult had three and Alex Sheedy and Robin Draper both had two.

‘’At times we’re really feisty,’’ point guard Taylor Thompson said. ‘’I like that about our team. We trust each other. We know that we can go for steals. If we don’t happen to get it, someone’s going to be behind our back helping us. So, you know, trust is a big thing. I think that’s why we’re allowed to get up in people and just, you know, play.’’

Moore has nine steals in the two tournament games and needs just three more in the championship to set a tournament record for steals by a player.

‘’We take a lot of chances trying to get steals,’’ she said. ‘’We play well off of each other. If we know one person doesn’t get it, we’re helping each other and having each other’s back.’’

In the two matchups this season with the Aztecs, Fresno State had nine steals in an 80-72 victory at San Diego State and eighth in a 74-49 loss at the Save Mart Center.

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Fresno State women: Turning the page on all of those turnovers

LAS VEGAS — Fresno State forced Boise State into 29 turnovers in its 72-55 quarterfinal victory on Thursday, a record at the Mountain West Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.

It is not the most the Bulldogs have forced in a game – Texas-Arlington had 30 in a 70-45 loss to Fresno State in December and Air Force had 30 in a 60-47 loss to the Bulldogs in January.

“I think our team was prepared for this game,” said guard Ki-Ki Moore, the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. “We came in with a chip on our shoulder knowing what we had to do and I believe we got it done.’’

Tough to argue with the ‘’got it done’’ part, but coach Raegan Pebley wasn’t so sure about that chip.

‘’We didn’t talk about (making) a statement,’’ she said. ‘’We just talked about winning, survive and advance. Our focus was really about how do we get past Boise State first, not trying to send a message to anybody else.’’

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Boise State is the fourth team in the past seven games to fail to get to 60 points against the Bulldogs – Fresno State held Wyoming to 47, Colorado State to 42, Air Force to 55 and the Broncos to 55.

The Bulldogs won all four of those games.

The Broncos did not score their first field goal until the 11:33 mark in the first half. The basket, a short jump shot by Brandi Henton, cut the Bulldogs lead to 15-4.

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New Mexico, San Diego State sweep MW hoops honors

The Bulldogs’ Tyler Johnson was named All-MWC honorable mention.

New Mexico swept the top honors in Mountain West Conference men’s basketball with Steve Alford being named Coach of the Year and Lobos guard Kendall Williams selected as Player of the Year.

Fresno State junior guard Tyler Johnson was named honorable mention. No Bulldogs were picked for the three all-conference squads or the all-defensive team.

On the women’s side, Fresno State junior guard Ki-Ki Moore was named first-team All-MWC as well as Defensive Player of the Year. Senior forward Rosie Moult was named second-team All-MWC and to the all-defensive team, while junior guard Taylor Thompson and sophomore forward Alex Sheedy were third team.

Rounding out the All-MWC men’s squad are UNLV teammates Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett, also the Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year; and Colorado State teammates Colton Iverson and Daniel Bejarano, the MW’s Newcomer and Sixth Man of the Year, respectively.

San Diego State’s Chelsea Hopkins is the women’s Player of the Year with Aztecs coach Beth Burns earning her third MW Coach of the Year honors. San Diego State’s Courtney Clements, Wyoming’s Chaundra Sewell and UNLV’s Kelli Thompson complete the first team.

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.