The Fresno State women’s basketball team went 23-10 last season, reached the postseason for the eighth year in a row and earned the program’s first postseason win over a nonconference opponent since 2006.
But the Bulldogs, who beat San Francisco 79-73 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, ultimately came up short of their goal of making the NCAA Tournament and advancing in that tournament.
It’s something that returning starting point guard Shauqunna Collins knows the team was capable of doing.
“I felt like it was very achievable and ended up coming up short,” she said. “But we’ve got this year, to reflect on how far we’ve come as a team.”
Fresno State looks a lot different than last year, with freshman Breanne Knishka and junior Kendra Martin getting considerable time in last week’s exhibition against Cal State East Bay. The Bulldogs won 65-53 as senior center Toni Smith scored a team-high 17 points.
“We’re excited and ready to get after it,” said Collins, who added 13 points and five steals in the preseason game. “We definitely want to become (Mountain West) tournament champs ... and make it to the NCAA. That’s everybody’s goal.”
The Bulldogs, who were picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West, hope to get there by playing more aggressively on defense and in transition.
“What I’d mainly like to see us do is get a lot of transition points,” Collins said. “We can be a team that can score 20-plus points in transition.”
Coach Jaime White agreed, hoping her team’s biggest strength is defense.
“We’re really going to extend our defense and put pressure on the other team to play a complete game,” she said.
The Bulldogs will have a tough opening test against the Highlanders, who were picked to finish second in the Big West after going 17-14 overall and 8-8 in conference a year ago. UC Riverside won its two exhibitions, 86-51 against Cal Poly Pomona and 85-74 against Cal Baptist.
They Highlanders are led by returning Big West Player of the Year Brittany Crain and sophomore Michelle Curry, who won Freshman of the Year last season.
Bulldogs ink four – Fresno State signed four players Thursday – all 6 feet or taller.
Kristina Cavey is a 6-foot athlete who averaged 17.3 points and six rebounds per game as a junior at Colorado’s Berthoud High and has been an all-state honorable mention the past two seasons. She is also a three-time state qualifier in the high jump and holds the school record at 5-3.
Saraya Smith, the daughter of former Portland Trail Blazer Reggie Smith, is a 6-foot guard from Ponderosa High in Shingle Springs. She averaged 15 points, five boards, three assists and three steals per game her junior season and is rated by ESPNU HoopGurlz as a three-star prospect with a grade of 89 out of 100.
The others are Megan Nillson, a 6-2 forward from Mt. Spokane High in Washington who also lettered four years in soccer as goalkeeper, and Katelin Noyer, a 6-4 center from New Zealand who competed on the under-19 national team at the FIBA Oceanic world qualifiers and has trained with the senior squad.
Fresno State roster
Hometown (last school)
Floresville, Texas (Howard College)
Washington, D.C. (Northwest Florida State College)
San Diego (Mt. Miguel)
Saginaw, Mich. (Garden City Community College)
Santa Monica (UCLA)
Bego Faz Davalos
Monterrey, Mexico (Tecnologico De Monterrey)
Athens, Texas (Athens)
Irving, Texas (Minnesota)
Dallas, Texas (Skyline)
Sydney, Australia (Vincennes University)
Dryden, Wash. (Cashmere)
Denver, Colo. (Chipola College)
Del City, Okla. (Del City)
Ogden, Utah (Bonneville)
Modesto (Modesto Christian)
FRESNO STATE AT UC RIVERSIDE
- Friday: 4 p.m. at SRC Arena
- Records (2014): Bulldogs 23-10, Highlanders 17-14
- Series: Bulldogs lead 11-1
- Last meeting: Fresno State won 73-61 at Save Mart Center on Dec. 4, 2014