Just as Fresno State started taking steps forward in the Mountain West Conference, a season-ending injury pushed the Bulldogs backward.
Right before Wednesday night’s conference game at Wyoming, the team announced that sophomore starting forward Breanne Knishka would miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury.
Without one of their best defenders, who also is one of just two returning starters on a young roster, the Bulldogs struggled to fill her role and suffered a 70-48 blowout loss to the Cowgirls in Laramie, Wyo.
Knishka was injured during a practice in Fresno, though the team didn’t find out the severity until they had arrived in Wyoming on the morning of the game.
“It was not good news for us and it’s kinda hard to be on the road and find that out,” coach Jaime White said. “But we’re going to need other people to step up and preferably play defense, because that’s where we missed Bree most. I thought our freshmen came off the bench and played well, but we as a team are going to have to defend better.”
Senior forward Kendra Martin started in place of Knishka, while freshman reserves Saraya Smith and Kristina Cavey also saw time.
Fresno State appears to be in for a rough ride during a month when it has been used to perfection under third-year coach Jaime White. Fresno State entered Wednesday having gone 15-0 in January the past two seasons.
But without Knishka, who made 33 starts last season en route to All-Mountain West Freshman Team honors, the Bulldogs never really got a hold on the Cowgirls.
Fresno State’s Tory Jacobs hit a layup to cut the deficit to 10-8 in the first quarter, but that’s as close as things would get. Wyoming (11-3, 3-0) took off on a 14-0 run and never looked back.
The Cowgirls offense was hot, making 7 of 8 shots from the field during the run, while Fresno State (8-6, 1-2) fell cold. The Bulldogs went 2 of 15 as their deficit ballooned to as much as 21 before halftime.
Breanne Knishka averaged 5.9 points and 2.2 assists per game while starting all 13 games for Fresno State before suffering a season-ending injury to her left knee during a practice this week.
Wyoming senior Liv Roberts led the charge, making 10 of her game-high 24 points in the opening period. She also had 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
“Liv Roberts is probably right now the best player in the league,” White said. “She hurts you in so many ways.”
Jacobs led Fresno State with a career-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 3 of 6 from long range. She was the only Bulldog to finish in double figures. Junior center Bego Faz Davalos was hurt by early foul trouble and scored eight points and had two rebounds in 17 minutes.
White and the Bulldogs have two days to figure out how to make up for Knishka’s absence ahead of Saturday’s home game against San Jose State.
“I think we’re deep enough,” White said. “We’re just young.”
FRESNO STATE VS. SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 8-6, 1-2 Mountain West; Spartans 4-10, 1-1 (lost 70-67 in overtime to Colorado State on Wednesday)
- Series/last meeting: Fresno State leads 54-21; Spartans won 66-64 on Feb. 3, 2016 at home.
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themw.com)/KFPT AM (790)