One of the tallest players in the history of the Fresno State women's basketball program has been looking for her shot more of late, a welcome sight for the Bulldogs.
Jacinta Vandenberg, a 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Australia, almost always has the height advantage inside -- even earlier in the season against national power Stanford.
But it really wasn't until last week that she began showing an offensive repertoire beyond putbacks and also started to display some assertiveness to score.
Vandenberg executed a few one-dribble moves to get to the basket and finish. She's also become more comfortable catching a pass and understanding the timing and spacing of setting a pick and then rolling to the basket.
In turn, Vandenberg has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time in her career, with 15 and 12 points.
"She's just really developing well," coach Raegan Pebley said. "Fundamentally, she's becoming a better player. Physically, she's becoming a stronger player. She hit a bit of a sophomore slump in the middle but we're seeing her really come back from that and staying confident and becoming a little more aggressive."
Now comes the challenge for Fresno State (13-8, 7-3 Mountain West) as it visits San Jose State (8-13, 2-8) at 2 p.m. Saturday: How to keep Vandenberg involved on both ends of what's expected to be a fast-paced game.
Vandenberg owns a six-inch advantage on any Spartans starter, but San Jose State prefers to go up-tempo, with full-court pressure and continuous quick shooting on offense.
At the very least, Vandenberg must continue to do a steady job as the Bulldogs' last line of defense on the full-court trap.
When opponents have been successful passing out of that trap, it's often ended with two players still having to figure out how to score with Vandenberg hovering near the basket.
Vandenberg is averaging 1.52 blocks per game and also has at least one steal in each of the past three games.
"Basically, my job is protect the basket and discourage anyone from driving in," Vandenberg said. "It's a bit daunting when you're constantly outnumbered 2-on-1. I'd appreciate it if someone could spring back and help me, please. But if I must, I'll try to anticipate their passes and disrupt any drives, and try to get the rebound if they miss.
"It's going to be interesting to play San Jose. From what we've seen in scout, they're athletic and fast-paced. They're going to try to rush us into fast shots. We can play fast. But we have to play smart."
San Jose State is averaging 77.7 points per game, second in the Mountain West. Fresno State is seventh at 68.8. But the Spartans also are allowing a conference-worst 87.5 points per game.
Point guard Taylor Thompson has primary responsibility for keeping the game at Fresno State's preferred pace.
The Bulldogs don't mind a quicker approach at certain points, but they also like to move the ball around in their halfcourt set. That's typically when Vandenberg has scored, often working the pick-and-roll with Thompson.
"When teams want to play fast, that's fine; we can, too." Thompson said. "We also need to be patient. ... When we can get the ball inside in the right situations and (Vandenberg) scores, it brings a different element to our game that helps us all-around.
"She has a great presence inside and we need that."
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