Fresno State had not lost a game at the Mountain West Conference Tournament, going 3-0 twice while winning back-to-back championships. The Bulldogs were far from perfect Tuesday in their first tournament game of year 3, but came closest in a late 4-minute burst.
Racing past Wyoming 74-66, the Bulldogs moved into the semifinals and another late-night game, with New Mexico next at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The defensive pressure that had helped carry the Bulldogs to the third seed didn’t have quite the same impact on the Cowgirls it did in two regular-season meetings, both Fresno State victories. Wyoming took care of the basketball, attacked the paint and was right there with 5 minutes remaining.
But the Bulldogs came up with two stops and got two baskets from Moriah Faulk, who hit a short jump shot and then scored in the lane with 3:05 remaining, allowing them some separation, up four, and turning the momentum. Faulk last season had averaged 12.3 points in the tournament, including 15 in quarterfinal win over UNLV and 19 in a semifinal against Nevada and was at it again.
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Wyoming, meanwhile, was stuck on 53 points, where the score had been tied with 5:21 to play.
“Down the stretch Mo did a great job attacking the basket, drawing some fouls,” coach Jaime White said. “I thought defensively we were a little smarter, got some key rebounds to kind of push us over the top.”
The Bulldogs had forced only 10 turnovers in the first 35 minutes — they had 32 in a victory over Boise State in the final game of the regular season, 21 at Air Force and 19 at New Mexico before that. But they pulled three while also allowing the Cowgirls to hit only one of their next nine shots.
And by the time Kayla Woodward knocked down a jumper with 59 seconds to go the Bulldogs were on a 14-0 run and up 11, though they did have to weather some not-too-bright plays in the final minute.
Fresno State (22-8) was up 64-55 after the basket by Woodward, but Raven Fox and Shauqunna Collins fouled 3-point shooters in the final minute. Up eight with 26 seconds to play, Fox fouled after a Wyoming defensive rebound. The Cowgirls were able to get within 71-66 with 21 seconds left after Collins fouled Marquelle Dent.
“We had some situational stuff late,” White said. “We played with a guard-oriented lineup, which is good because we really haven’t done that all year, so that was nice to see. Wasn’t impressed with our fouling the 3-point shot, but we will definitely have to talk about that.”
Alex Sheedy led the Bulldogs with 19 points.
The Cowgirls went in as the best 3-point shooting team in the conference, having hit 36.5% this season. But they did not settle for jump shots against the Bulldogs, who defend the 3-point as well as any team in the country.
Over their previous four games, Fresno State had held Boise State to 3 of 19 (15.8%), Air Force to1 of 15 (6.7%), New Mexico to 2 of 6 (33.3%) and Wyoming to 3 of 10 (30%).
The only time that the Cowgirls did take their shot from distance in the first half, a three-point lead turned into a four-point deficit.
Wyoming did not attempt a 3-pointer for the first 12 minutes, but launched from the 3-point line on four of its next five shots, missed all of them and none were close. The Cowgirls next three baskets came at the rim or in the lane, playing their way into a tie at 27 at halftime.
They went in averaging 20.4 shots from beyond the arc, but took 12 and made only two against the Bulldogs. Both makes were from guard Kaitlyn Mileto, the second of those 3’s giving Wyoming a 53-50 lead with 7 minutes remaining.
“For them to have made two 3’s I think is huge for us,” White said. “That was our goal initially. We gave up some 2’s on it, but we took out those players that really can hurt you. Mileto obviously showed that she could step up, but I think keeping them down at the 3-point (line) was really key for tonight’s win.”
No. 2 Lobos hang on
• Second-seeded New Mexico survived a wild 42 seconds in a 57-56 win over No. 7 San Diego State. The Lobos went 1 of 6 at the end and the Aztecs missed three potential go-ahead baskets. Down one, the Aztecs’ McKynzie Fort missed a jump shot with 31 seconds remaining, but New Mexico could not snare the rebound.
San Diego State then had two more shots at it, but Ariell Bostick missed a 3-pointer and Erimma Amarikwa missed from point-blank range with 2 seconds to go after grabbing an offensive rebound.
The Aztecs did hit 44.2% of their shots, the only team in the first three games to break 40%.
New Mexico hit 38.3%, San Jose State 36.6% in beating Colorado State (29%) and Boise State 32.8% in beating UNLV (30.5%).
Other quarterfinals …
San Jose State knocked off No. 1 seed Colorado State 64-55, hitting 47.2% of its shots in the second half, including five beyond the 3-point line to maintain a lead that was never less than five through the final 10 minutes.
The Spartans, 0-2 against Colorado State during the regular season, are the first No. 8 to beat a No. 1 seed at the Mountain West Tournament. The No. 8 is 4-15 all-time and 1-9 in quarterfinals.
San Jose State had scored 99 points in back-to-back games — a 99-97 victory over UNLV in the regular-season finale and a 99-85 victory over Utah State in the tournament’s first round Monday, but took out the Rams at the defensive end.
Colorado State entered as the best shooting team in the conference and the Spartans 10th of 11 in field-goal percentage defense. But the Rams hit just 20 of 69 (29%). “Just not a good day to have a bad day,” Rams coach Ryun Williams said.
• San Jose State faces No. 4 Boise State in the first of Wednesday’s semifinals, with the Broncos beating No. 5 UNLV 64-46.
The Broncos hit 19 of 58 shots (32.8%), their second-worst percentage in a victory this season. Boise State managed to win 51-47 at Nevada when making 17 of 61 (27.9%).
UNLV guard Danielle Miller, who led the conference in scoring at 18.5 points per game, was held to 13. Miller hit 5 of 18 shots — 2 of 10 beyond the arc.