Fresno State fell into trouble early against Boise State, but a little confidence and a trip down memory lane fueled the Bulldogs to their biggest comeback victory of the season Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs turned things around after halftime, finally erasing the last of what had been a double-digit deficit to beat the Broncos 62-57 and remain unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference at 4-0 while moving to 8-7 overall.
The Broncos (8-6, 1-2) bolted to a nine-point lead in the first quarter and extended it to 32-17 with just under three minutes left until halftime.
Fresno State was trailing in nearly every key statistical category, out-rebounded by the Broncos 22-16 and shooting 37 percent (10 of 27) from the field compared to Boise State’s 45 percent (14 of 31).
The Bulldogs didn’t panic. Coach Jaime White reminded her team of their last meeting against Boise State, a 55-52 overtime win last season that saw the Bulldogs come back after trailing by 11.
If they could do it then, White said, they could do it again.
8-0 Fresno State’s record when holding opponents under 60 points in regulation
“Our home-court advantage helped us out,” she said. “We knew that we could still come out and get a win and our kids really bought into that. We forced a few turnovers and before you knew it, we were back in the game.”
The Bulldogs, who were 0-4 in games this season when trailing at halftime, tweaked their defense, extending their pressure full-court while eventually wearing down the Broncos.
In turn, Fresno State made 9 of 13 from the field in the third quarter (69.3 percent) while outscoring the Broncos 26-13.
“Coach told us to buy in at halftime and we bought in,” senior starting point guard Shauqunna Collins said. “We took pride in our defense, something we’re really good at, and let that fuel our offense.”
Collins sparked the Bulldogs with five assists and had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
She woke up the crowd of 1,667 with a no-look pass to Toni Smith that cut the deficit to five and forced the Broncos to call a timeout.
Four Bulldogs scored in double figures: Bego Faz Davalos 13, Shauqunna Collins 12, Alex Furr 11 and Toni Smith 10.
Collins delivered again, dishing to Brittany Aikens, who finished the layup for the Bulldogs’ first lead, 42-41, with 3:33 left in the third.
The Broncos held on behind junior Brooke Pahukoa, who scored a game-high 27 points, including 5 of 8 from downtown.
Each time the Bulldogs caught a small lead, Pahukoa answered, either with a three-pointer, a pull-up jumper or from the foul line.
Pahukoa hit her fifth and final three-pointer to start the fourth quarter, putting the defending Mountain West tournament champs ahead 50-49.
It’s a little tiring at times. I just thought Boise State was a great team. When they got a three-point shooter like (Brooke Pahukoa), they’re going to be able to stay in games.
Coach Jaime White, on the back-and-forth action against the Broncos
Senior Alex Furr answered with a three and both teams exchanged layups and free throws and were tied 57-57 with 4:43 remaining.
The Bulldogs defense took it up a notch, holding the Broncos scoreless through the final whistle, with Boise State going 0 of 6 from the field.
Moriah Faulk hit a three-pointer for the lead and Aikens sealed it down the stretch, making two free throws with 11 seconds to go.
“We had better pressure further out, we were trapping better after halfcourt and really made some great plays down the stretch,” White said. “That’s how it should be, making plays at home.”
FRESNO STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at The Event Center
- Records: Bulldogs 8-7 (4-0 Mountain West); Spartans 5-10, 3-1 (lost at Colorado State 76-54 on Saturday)