Fresno State women's basketball: Second-half shuffle helps Bulldogs edge Wyoming

The Fresno BeeFebruary 19, 2014 

With its offense struggling in the half-court set and the defense not forcing enough turnovers to help generate easy buckets, Fresno State's women's basketball team turned to a lineup it rarely has used.

Coach Raegan Pebley went with five guards in the second half in an attempt to clear room in the paint Wednesday and create one-on-ones for point guard Taylor Thompson.

The small-ball approach worked as planned, as Thompson scored 16 of her team-high 18 points after halftime and Fresno State rallied to beat Wyoming 65-60 in a Mountain West Conference game at the Save Mart Center.

The 5-foot-5 Thompson also had 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

With the five-guard alignment, the Bulldogs (15-10, 9-5) attacked the rim and shot 51.6% in the second half compared with 28.1% in the first, which ended with the Cowgirls up 26-20.

"I think our game changed when we we went five-guards out," Thompson said. "It opened the lane more because their posts were crowding that lane. It really opened the lane more for us guards, which was huge."

Backup point guard Raven Fox also benefited from a less-congested lane, scoring a career-high 13 points while operating more as a shooting guard.

Fox, a speedy 5-foot-7 junior, also played solid defense on Wyoming forward Kayla Woodward and helped limit the conference Preseason Player of the Year to 13 points -- and just four in the second half.

"Just really proud of the grit our team showed," Pebley said. "The preseason player of the year was Kayla Woodward and when you let her catch and shoot, she's going to look like the best player in our conference.

"I think our second-effort defense and second-half defense on her was a big key to our victory. She just wasn't able to get comfortable. Raven did a great job playing to her strength as a defensive player and really frustrate Kayla."

Points were scarce early as Fresno State missed 12 of its first 15 shots and Wyoming 14 of its first 15.

But the Cowgirls managed to get into a rhythm to take the lead at the break.

Four minutes into the second half, Pebley took out 6-foot-6 center Jacinta Vandenberg in favor of 5-foot-10 guard Moriah Faulk. Pebley said she planned to go with the shift just for a few minutes, or at least as long as Faulk could successfully defend down low and the Bulldogs kept up on the boards.

Wyoming coach Joe Legerski countered by also playing smaller, which allowed Pebley to stick with her small lineup.

Fresno State went on to outrebound Wyoming 43-40, with Faulk getting a game-high 12. The Bulldogs hit 11 of 18 free throws after going without an attempt in the first half.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, bjanteola@fresnobee.com or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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