Fresno State got a rude awakening to start the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball season and faces a quick turnaround on the road.
The Bulldogs suffered an 80-54 blowout loss to New Mexico in the conference opener for both teams Thursday night at Save Mart Center. Saturday afternoon, they’ll be in Reno to face a Nevada team looking to make amends for a similar defeat.
From the opening tip, the Bulldogs (7-5 overall) never appeared capable of holding their own against the Lobos (5-6). It was their first loss in a conference opener under third-year coach Jaime White.
New Mexico’s 6-foot-5 center Richelle van der Keijl zeroed in on junior center Bego Faz Davalos, taking over the post and leaving Fresno State’s offense dazed and confused. The Bulldogs forced shots and looked uncomfortable throughout, shooting just 33.9 percent (20 of 59) from the field compared with their season mark of .389.
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On the other end of the floor, Van der Keijl also controlled the paint, scoring nine of her 16 points in the first quarter. By halftime, the Lobos led by 16.
We need to get a little more grit and a little more chip on our shoulder. I think there were times where (New Mexico) was tougher than us … and that’s disheartening as a coach.
Fresno State coach Jaime White, following the Bulldogs’ 80-54 conference-opening loss to New Mexico
“We didn’t really start ready to go,” White said. “We didn’t at Weber State and I think we’ve gotten away with it a couple times. But you can’t have a first half (like that) and get down 20. And then, you know, we just continued to not do the little things and I think the little things are the problem.”
Those little things include boxing out for rebounds, driving the lane to draw fouls and making defensive stops. Even after a fiery halftime speech from White, after which the Bulldogs sprinted out of the locker room for warmups, Fresno State failed to make serious inroads. It was 56-32 with 6:53 left in the third.
“I think the last two years, I think that’s what our teams have done, is adjusted and adapted. When you talk about halftime and not adjusting and not adapting like a Bulldog team was a bit surprising to me,” she said. “It’s a sign of a young team, but not anything we want to be OK with. It’s something we’re going to have to talk about.”
I feel like we’re not extremely mentally tough. Things didn’t go the way we thought they should and all of a sudden the sirens go off and we lose our heads a little bit. That’s a sign of being young, and we have a lot of youth out there, but you’ve got to play.
White on maintaining focus through tough times
The Lobos outrebounded the Bulldogs 49-29, including 17-9 on the offensive glass, and scored 46 points in the paint – the highest total allowed by Fresno State this season. Cherise Beynon led New Mexico with 20 points, nine boards and six assists. Alex LaPeyrolerie scored 19, hitting three of her six 3-point attempts.
The loss isn’t just a sign of youth, White believes, but also of an open conference race.
“I really believe it’s kinda up for grabs,” White said. “The thing is, you just can’t care. You’ve got to go out and play every game and play every game hard and play every game to win, no matter who your opponent is and what you’ve done against them.
“New Mexico has never been easy. No one is ever easy. If I think back into conference, Air Force wasn’t easy. So easy is not an option. We need to get a little more grit and a little more chip on our shoulder. I think there were times where (New Mexico) was tougher than us … and that’s disheartening as a coach.”
Emilie Volk was the only Bulldog to reach double-digit scoring with 10 points to go with six rebounds. Her 3-pointer midway through the second quarter cut the deficit to six, but New Mexico countered with a 10-0 run. Faz Davalos finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs play Nevada (6-6, 0-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Wolf Pack lost 107-84 at San Jose State on Thursday.
“Obviously it’s not a way you want to start conference, especially at home, but from a loss you learn,” Volk said. “It’s a sour taste in your mouth, but we’ve got to turn a new leaf and have a sense of urgency quicker.”
FRESNO STATE VS. NEVADA
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center in Reno
- Records: Bulldogs 7-5, 0-1 Mountain West; Wolf Pack 6-6, 0-1
- Series/Last meeting: Fresno State leads 40-10; Bulldogs won 65-56 on Feb. 14
- Webcast: Mountain West Network (themw.com)
- The skinny: Fresno State has won six in a row against Nevada and 19 of the past 21 meetings. Wolf Pack is led by 5-10 senior guard Stephanie Schmid (13.5 ppg) and 6-1 sophomore guard Riana Everidge (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg).