Pebley a finalist at San Diego State?

Women’s basketball coach Raegan Pebley might be ready to leave to Fresno State after one season.

Pebley is a finalist for the San Diego State job, according to a report by KGPE (CBS 47) that cites unnamed sources.

Raegan Pebley speaks to the media after helping Fresno State reach the NCAA Tournament in her first season with the Bulldogs.

Though she guided Fresno State to a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and a 24-9 overall record, Pebley hardly endured a stress-free season as players initially were hesitant to the change of coaches and systems, and a portion of Bulldogs fans kept yearning for the return of former coach Adrian Wiggins.

Still, Pebley helped Fresno State finish second to San Diego State in the Mountain West regular-season standings, then upset the Aztecs in the conference tournament championship to secure an NCAA Tournament automatic bid. A 15th-seeded Fresno State team challenged second-seeded Cal, an eventual Final Four team, for a while before falling 90-76 in the first round.

A few weeks after the season, top player Ki-Ki Moore said she was transferring to Pacific for her senior season despite a news release from Fresno State just prior to the regular-season finale that stated she was ending her basketball career because of injuries.

Pebley said she was disappointed that Moore wasn’t finishing her career at Fresno State but said she was not surprised.

The San Diego State job became open after coach Beth Burns unexpectedly retired in April following her 16th season with the Aztecs.

San Diego State finished 27-7 last season and had an RPI that ranked 49th in the country, but was surprisingly left out of the NCAA Tournament following its upset to Fresno State in the conference championship. The Aztecs went on to play in the WNIT and were eliminated in the second round.

Pebley, 37, signed a five-year contract in April 2012 that was to pay her among the top half of Mountain West coaches, athletic director Thomas Boeh said upon hiring her from Utah State. Pebley’s exact salary at Fresno State was not immediately known Friday evening.

Before coming to Fresno State, Pebley was the winningest coach in Utah State history despite a 110-155 overall record. But her efforts were most notable in resurrecting an Aggies women’s basketball program that had been defunct for 16 years.

Pebley also was a standout player at Colorado and played in the WNBA.

 

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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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.”