History could not hold back the Fresno State women’s basketball team Saturday at San Jose State, as the Bulldogs kept their perfect start in the Mountain West Conference intact with a 59-54 win over the Spartans.
It was the Bulldogs’ first win at The Event Center since 2011, with the Spartans winning three in a row by a combined margin of seven points. Two of those snapped lengthy Fresno State winning streaks.
Not this year. At halftime, co-captain Toni Smith told her team: “Let’s break this curse.”
We only said we had to break this curse. I told them, ‘Let’s break this curse. We know we can do it; we know how to come back.’
Senior forward and team co-captain Toni Smith
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The Bulldogs (9-7, 5-0 MWC) hit some bumps in the second quarter – going down seven after a Dezz Ramos three-pointer with 3:35 to go until halftime. Fresno State cut the deficit to one via a six-point swing, capped by Moriah Faulk’s three-pointer with four seconds left.
In the third quarter, Fresno State attacked the Spartans’ zone defense, passing side-to-side before finding an open player inside for the finish. Smith ignited the charge, scoring eight of her game-high 19 points.
The Bulldogs were 0-4 in games in which they trailed at halftime in the preseason but are 2-0 in those situations since starting the Mountain West.
As the Bulldogs’ offense started clicking, Ramos answered from long range for San Jose State (6-11, 4-2), draining her third three-pointer for a 36-34 lead with 6:08 to go in the third.
It was the Spartans’ last lead, as they went 0 for 6 from the field over the next 4:06 while Fresno State scored eight in a row for a 42-36 lead. Ramos didn’t let the Bulldogs get too far in front, capping a 6-0 run with another three-pointer with 6:59 remaining to tie it 42-42.
The Bulldogs kept their composure, showing enough offensive patience to continue cracking through the zone with finishes by Smith and freshman Breanne Knishka.
Fresno State scored 38 points in the paint, its highest total against a conference opponent this season.
“(San Jose State’s) posts are very physical, but only in transition. Once you slowed them down and got them uncomfortable, it started opening things up,” Smith said.
Bego Faz Davalos set a screen for Shauqunna Collins, who finished a drive with a left-handed scoop to the basket for a nine-point lead with 2:17 to go.
After that, it was a cat-and-mouse game, with Fresno State sealing it at the free-throw line.
Everybody is aware that this is a place that we’ve struggled, and for good reason. But for us to come in and play smart, not lose composure and finish the game is big. I was interested to see how we’d respond from the bye week, and I’m happy with how we did that.
Fresno State coach Jaime White
Collins finished with 14 points, scoring in double figures for the 11th time this season. Ramos led all scorers with 20, hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers.
“It’s a good team win,” coach Jaime White said. “I felt like everybody did their part and it was competitive. We made some mistakes and had too many turnovers, but we had different people show up at different times. We adapted as the game went on and made some plays when we needed to and made some stops when we needed them.”
SAN DIEGO STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 9-7, 5-0 Mountain West; Aztecs 6-10, 1-4 (lost to Boise State 75-45 on Saturday)
- Last meeting: Fresno State won 57-50 on Jan. 28, 2015. Bulldogs went 2-0 against the Aztecs last season, also winning 56-44 in San Diego on Jan. 3, 2015.