Fresno State was back in the gym after taking a week off for the holidays, hungry and eager to start Mountain West play Thursday against New Mexico.
It’s a familiar feeling for the Bulldogs (7-4), who successfully have used the week after Christmas to refocus during the reign of third-year coach Jaime White.
In her first two seasons at Fresno State, White led the Bulldogs to extended perfect starts in conference. She’s obviously hoping history repeats beginning with the 7 p.m. tipoff against the Lobos at Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs under White are a combined 17-0 in conference games through January (8-0 in 2015-16; 9-0 in 2014-15).
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To keep perfection alive, White knows she’ll need extra effort out of a young Bulldogs team that returned just two starters from last year.
As we’re going through the season and more practices, we’re getting better, but again, we’re still a young team. Sometimes I forget that myself.
Fresno State sophomore point guard Candice White
Junior center Bego Faz Davalos remains the anchor, averaging 16.3 points and 11.9 rebounds. Sophomore Breanne Knishka is the other returning starter at small forward.
The remainder of the starting lineup has Candice White at point guard, fellow sophomore Tory Jacobs at shooting guard and senior Kendra Martin at power forward.
White is averaging 14.2 points and Jacobs has exhibited long-range skill (second on the team to White in 3-pointers made with 16), though her consistency from the field (.297 shooting; .258 3-pointers) has wavered.
Fresno State enters off a 60-57 win at Weber State on Dec. 19 that has put it in the right mindset.
“I think Weber State gave us a lot of confidence because it was more about focus,” Candice White said. “I think if we take focus and execution and staying a team through the ups and downs, then the sky is the limit for us in conference.”
Jaime White is hoping that confidence will provide Fresno State with the extra edge it will need from the reserves.
“We need those young kids to step up,” she said. “We really need that presence off the bench to give us that second push and that’s a huge factor.”
The conference race appears wide open with Colorado State’s fourpeat under threat after an 8-4 start. The Rams were picked to finish first in the Mountain West preseason poll, but Boise State (10-1), UNLV (9-3) and Wyoming (9-3) have made strong nonconference statements.
Colorado State opens at UNLV on Thursday, before hosting Boise State on Saturday.
The Bulldogs, picked to finish third, play their next two conference games on the road: Saturday at Nevada and Wednesday at Wyoming.
FRESNO STATE VS. NEW MEXICO
- Thursday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 7-4, Lobos 4-6
- Series/last meeting: Fresno State leads 10-9. Bulldogs won 51-43 on Feb. 27, 2016, at home.
- Webcast/Radio: Mountain West Network (themw.com)/KFPT AM (790)
- The skinny: Lobos first-year coach Mike Bradbury came to New Mexico from Wright State, where he led the team to five 20-win seasons in six years. New Mexico has five players averaging 9.8 points per game or more. Richelle van der Keijl, a 6-foot-5 senior transfer from Wright State, averages team highs of 15.2 points and 10.6 rebounds.