Fresno State will take on a familiar foe Monday night when it meets Saint Mary’s in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The two teams met Dec. 12 at the Save Mart Center with the Bulldogs (23-9) coming out on top 60-54.
But their familiarity with the Gaels (21-10) goes further than that.
For Alex Sheedy, she grew up playing against Saint Mary’s Lauren Nicholson and Hannah Kaser, who are both also from Australia. Sheedy grew up playing with Kaser in Victoria and against Nicholson — who was raised in Sydney — as she got older and in camps with the Australian national teams.
Sheedy said she considers the two her friends, though they’ve lost touch over the years as they focus on school and basketball.
For Stephanie Rovetti, she’s played against Saint Mary’s before her days as a Bulldog, facing the Gaels in the West Coast Conference as an undergrad with Brigham Young.
“I like playing the WCC teams,” said Rovetti, who is expected to return to tonight after sitting out of the Bulldogs’ first-round win against San Francisco. “I’m really comfortable with what they do and the system they run.”
Still, as familiar as they may be with the Gaels, the Bulldogs took a few hours before Saturday’s practice to study film.
“We’re ready to go,” head coach Jaime White said. “It’s going to be a physical game. The best thing they do is rebound. We’ve really got to be aware and focused.”
Saint Mary’s is ranked eighth in the country in rebounding margin (plus 11.0), backed by deep roster that has five players 6-foot or taller seeing regular game time.
The Gaels are led by Nicholson, who is averaging 17.2 points per game. She dropped 25 against the Bulldogs back in December and 23 in the Gaels’ 92-88 overtime win against Hawaii in the WNIT first round on Saturday.
“Lauren Nicholson is an amazing player,” added Sheedy. “She’s phenomenal and very tough. It’s going to be a hard game but we’re looking forward to it.”
The two teams play at 7 p.m. tonight at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga. The winner advances to play either Eastern Washington or Sacramento State, who also tip off at 7 p.m.
“We’re doing something (Fresno State) hasn’t done in eight years,” Sheedy said. “It’s new for everyone. It’s fun. It’s a new place for us and we want to do the best as we can while we’re here because we’d like to keep going.”
Added junior forward Moriah Faulk: “This is as far as we’ve been in postseason anyways, I think that lights a fire underneath everyone.”