Fresno State is playing like a different team since it opened Mountain West Conference play.
The Bulldogs have won four in a row, pushing them above .500 for the first time this season at 8-7. But sixth-year senior and team co-captain Alex Furr noticed the turnaround before the conference results started rolling in.
“I feel like even before we won a game, since we’ve been back (from Christmas break) it’s been different, because it’s a new season for us,” she said. “Everything we did before the break we left behind us.”
That includes tight road losses at Cal Poly, Saint Mary’s and San Diego; and tougher home defeats at the hands of Washington and then-No. 24 George Washington.
It was all a warmup for the Mountain West.
Fresno State has six players averaging at least 8.3 points per game over the last four games.
“We came in and we’re like, ‘Everything matters now,’ ” Furr said. “There’s definitely been a change in attitude, but we’re still trying to do our best.”
The next test arrives at 2 p.m. Saturday, when the Bulldogs tip off at San Jose State, where they haven’t won since March 2011.
Furr, a freshman at the time, is the only remaining player from that season. Since then, she’s witnessed the Bulldogs lose three straight as visitors. The teams did not play in the 2012-13 season.
In the past two years, the Spartans have never finished above .500 in the regular season nor in the Mountain West but each time have beaten a contending Bulldogs team.
They make you play with an urgency, and that’s the biggest thing. When we come to their gym, they’re comfortable there.
Fresno State coach Jaime White, on conference foe San Jose State
“They’re a dangerous team,” Furr said. “They have been since I’ve been here. No matter their record, they’re going to put on a show because we’re their rival.”
In February 2012, the Spartans snapped Fresno State’s 12-game winning streak in a 62-61 thriller. They won 68-66 in 2014, and last season spoiled the Bulldogs’ run of 13 consecutive victories, including a 9-0 start in the conference, with a 56-51 victory.
The Bulldogs hope history will not repeat; instead they’re banking on recent success as motivation. Fresno State came back from a 15-point deficit to beat defending conference tournament champion Boise State last Saturday.
It showed growth and the team’s ability to diversify the offense with four players scoring in double figures The Bulldogs also have improved their shooting, making 37 percent of their three-point shots against conference opponents. The bench has provided extra depth, with reserves Brittany Aikens, Kendra Martin and Emilie Volk seeing more playing time.
They play a quick game, they speed things up. So as long as we don’t let them speed our game up and we play Fresno State basketball, we’ll be OK.
Bulldogs guard Alex Furr, on upcoming opponent San Jose State
Redshirt sophomore Bego Faz Davalos continues to lead the team with 12.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
“We were at this point last year and we went on a little run, which was great,” Bulldogs coach Jaime White said. “We have the experience of doing that, (but) I think the most important thing is to take it one game at a time.”
Scouting the Spartans – San Jose State (6-10, 4-1) is off to its best start in the conference since coach Jamie Craighead took over in 2013 and implemented a quicker offensive attack.
The Spartans are fresh off a 67-66 win at Wyoming on Wednesday. They’re led by Mountain West Preseason Newcomer of the Year Dezz Ramos. The junior point guard, who sat out last season after transferring from Weber State, leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game and is third in the conference in three-point shooting – making 41.8 percent (38 of 91) of her shots.
Riana Byrd, a 6-foot-2 senior, is averaging 9.2 points and 6.8 rebounds off the bench.
FRESNO STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at The Event Center
- Records: Bulldogs 8-7, 4-0 Mountain West; Spartans 6-10, 4-1 (won at Wyoming 67-66 on Wednesday)
- Last meeting: San Jose State won 56-51 on Feb. 4, 2015, in San Jose
- Series: Bulldogs lead 53-20
- Internet/radio: Mountain West Network (www.themw.com)/KFPT (AM 790)