Fresno State survived a late scare, needing a go-ahead three-pointer from true freshman Breanne Knishka with 1:11 remaining to set up a 54-49 win over San Diego State on Wednesday night and remain undefeated in the Mountain West Conference.
The Bulldogs (10-7, 6-0) were down 30-26 at halftime and fell behind by as many as seven in the third before going on a 9-0 scoring run capped by Brittany Aikens’ three-pointer for a 41-38 lead heading into the fourth.
The Aztecs came back with the help of Ahjalee Harvey, who hit three straight three-pointers over a span of 2 minutes, 38 seconds – the first tying it at 43-43, and the last putting her team in front 49-47 with 2:16 to go.
That would be the Aztecs’ last lead. On their next possession, MyKynzie Fort drove inside but lost control of the ball as it flew out of bounds across the baseline.
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Fresno State took time off the clock, passing the ball around the perimeter and stretching the Aztecs’ zone defense before Knishka hit the open three-pointer from the corner.
The Bulldogs sealed it at the free-throw line, making 4 of 6 in the final 30 seconds. Alex Furr hit two following a Fort technical, called with 26 seconds to play and Fresno State still up just one when her intentional foul was deemed excessive by the referees.
Who said free throws don’t win games? They definitely do.
Fresno State coach Jaime White
San Diego State (6-11, 1-5) saw its offense crumble in the second half, making just 30.4 percent of its shots compared to 50 percent through the first two quarters. The Bulldogs hit 18 of 42 shots (42.9 percent) from the field but went 13 of 18 from the free-throw line compared to San Diego State’s 3 of 6.
The Bulldogs didn’t make many adjustments to their defense, instead taking the risk that the Aztecs simply would cool off.
“We rolled the dice a little and didn’t think they would shoot as well in the second half and we won the gamble,” coach Jaime White said. “I don’t think anybody is pleased with how we played tonight, although pleased with the win, and pleased that we did what we had to do.”
Through its first six conference games, Fresno State has trailed at halftime in four. All six of their league wins have come by eight points or less.
We’re 6-0 in conference right now. That’s motivation. That’s just like a drive for us right now so we’re running off that.
Senior forward Toni Smith on Bulldogs winning streak
“You’ve always got to put your best foot forward, and it might not come in that first quarter or that first little bit, but at the end of the day I think all of us we’re saying ‘OK – no matter who our opponent is – we want to win this game, how are we going to win this game, what do we have to do to win it and let’s just get to business now.”
Fresno State’s Bego Faz Davalos led all scorers with 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.
Ahjalee Harvey and Aleiah Brandon each scored 11 to lead the Aztecs.
Knishka’s late basket provided her only points of the night, but she made six assists and grabbed five rebounds, as the Bulldogs played the Aztecs to a 29-29 draw on the boards.
Martin out for season – Junior transfer Kendra Martin will miss the rest of the season because of a right knee injury suffered during Monday’s practice.
Martin played 18 minutes and scored eight points, both season highs, in a 67-59 win at Nevada. In 14 games overall, all off the bench, the ex-Chipola College (Florida) star averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds with seven steals.
“When a part of your family and a part of your team gets an injury like that you really feel for them,” White said. “This is the first game without her and I think we felt it a little bit, but we’re going to have to keep moving and, you know, I’ve always seen where opportunity is given, somebody steps up to that role.”
AIR FORCE AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 10-7, 6-0 Mountain West; Falcons 0-17, 0-6
- Salute to Services Day: All military and veterans get in free with I.D. and special guests from the Wounded Warrior Project will be honored at halftime.