Despite enduring four straight losses for the first time in seven seasons, the Fresno State women’s basketball team isn’t panicking just yet.
The Bulldogs don’t even appear to be too concerned, in part because two of those losses came in overtime.
Whether it’s been a case of overconfidence or complacency after starting Mountain West play with nine straight victories or because opponents have adjusted to Fresno State’s game plan the second time around, the Bulldogs aren’t acting too worried about their midseason slump.
“I don’t think we’re highly concerned,” said senior forward Alex Sheedy, who has been part of one regular-season conference championship team and three conference tournament championship squads. “We know what kind of a team we are and what we’re capable of.”
Not playing to that level of late, though, might’ve cost the Bulldogs the regular-season title and the top seed at next month’s conference tournament. Fresno State (17-7, 9-4), which hosts Utah State (7-18, 4-9) at 2 p.m. Saturday, is 1 1/2 games out of first place with five regular-season games remaining. The Bulldogs won the first meeting 70-64 on Jan7.
Colorado State (19-6, 11-3), which handed Fresno State its most recent defeat (70-56 on Wednesday), has the inside track to the regular-season title and No. 1 seed for the tournament with four games left against opponents, all with losing records. New Mexico (15-10, 11-3) is also tied atop the standings but still must face three of four teams with winning records, including Fresno State later this month.
“Just trying to stay alive in the middle of this kind of humdrum part of the season,” first-year Bulldogs coach Jaime White said. “Our focus is still on us and getting better. This time of year, sometime that gets overlooked. You start thinking about winning it all. We just needed to dial back to what we do, what we do well and what we need to get better at.”
Stepping up in clutch situations could go a long way for a Bulldogs team that’s played nine games decided by six points or less, which is partly why White had her players simulate late-game possessions at length toward the end of Friday’s practice.
Turnovers also remains a troublesome area for Fresno State. The Bulldogs are averaging 20 turnovers per game during their losing streak, up slightly after averaging 17.2 during the 13-game winning streak that preceded its recent funk.
Perhaps most importantly, Fresno State appears to be settling for outside shots rather than working for higher-percentage shots or trying to get to the free-throw line. Prior to the skid, the Bulldogs were shooting 30.5 % on 3-pointers and averaging 15.6 attempts behind the arc. But during the losing stretch, the Bulldogs are shooting 23.4% on 3-pointers while attempting an average of 24.5 shots behind the arc.
“I think our opponents are doing a good job guarding us,” said guard Alex Furr, who has made 38 of 112 shots behind the arc (33.9%) to lead the Bulldogs in 3-pointers made and ranks second in 3-point accuracy. “Shots aren’t falling, but you have those nights. They’ll start to fall again.
“I’m not too concerned. It’ll be alright. We’ll be fine.”
In addition, the Bulldogs have made fewer trips to the free-throw line lately. The Bulldogs were averaging 12.35 free-throws made and 18.15 free-throw attempts before the losing streak, but just nine free throws made and 13.5 attempts during the losing streak.
Increased work at the free-throw line and less 3-point shooting could help Fresno State boost its field-goal percentage. The Bulldogs are 16-1 when shooting over 38% from the field.
“We made that run then things got tougher,” White said. “I’m not overconfident; it’s my first year. It’s hard, though, cause our kids have won a lot in the past. Maybe our upperclassmen were thinking, ‘Hey, here we go again; we’re on the right path.’ We need to keep getting better.”