Fresno State came up short in its bid to win the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball tournament for a second year a in a row, losing 66-53 to Boise State on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
But unlike a year ago, when the Bulldogs blew a double-digit lead in the second half, this time, really, they had the game taken from them by the Broncos, who were much sharper and more physical, particularly on one play.
With the Bulldogs off to a quick start, Bego Faz Davalos got crushed in a collision under the basket. That appeared to throw all of the Bulldogs off for a while.
With the loss to Boise State in the championship game, the Bulldogs are now 12-3 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament and 2-2 playing for the title.
Faz Davalos, who had put together double doubles in wins over Nevada, Wyoming and UNLV in reaching the title game, had a fourth (11 points, 14 rebounds) to set a conference single-season record with 21. But at halftime she was 1 of 6 and had three points, and it wasn’t until midway through the third quarter, after she was removed from the game following a grievous defensive lapse, that she was able to get shots to fall.
“She had a great tournament, and she has been our go-to when we’ve needed it, and she’s been able to do that, and I think at that point they thought maybe that’s not going to be the case,” coach Jaime White said. “They really have so many multiple parts that they can play a post player, they can go with undersize, they can match to all of your stuff.
“And our zone didn’t work that great tonight. They were good shooters and they knocked it down when they needed to.”
In the second half, as the Broncos were working their way free from the Bulldogs, that was the big difference. Boise State, in winning the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, made shots when it really needed them to fall, particularly guard Brooke Pahukoa, who scored 15 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and was selected as the tournament MVP.
We’re going to be back again. We’re going to keep coming back. This is what it’s about. One game doesn’t really define us, although I hope it helps us be more motivated as we learn to deal with this kind of thing and move forward next year.
Fresno State coach Jaime White
“Brooke is a nice player,” White said. “I think what she’s done is she used to just be a 3-point shooter – that’s what we’d say when we scout her – and now she’s slid into a little bit more of a driving guard. She was able to pull up the multiple times we were on her with her hands straight up and she shot right over us, along with (Shalen) Shaw.”
The Bulldogs, who were a No. 7 seed and took out No. 10 Nevada, No. 2 Wyoming and No. 3 UNLV to advance to the title game, just couldn’t match Boise State.
“Four games in five days is really remarkable,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “We felt like if we could get them into the second half and make a little run, at some point fatigue would set in. They’re very competitive, very well coached, and there’s a reason they’ve been here so often.”
Faz Davalos had some good looks around the basket, but the Bulldogs needed some shots to fall. Candice White, who led Fresno State with 14 points, had some success getting to the rim and to the foul line in the second half. But the Bulldogs in the third quarter were 4 of 14 (28.6 percent) and in the fourth were 4 of 15 (26.7 percent).
They also turned it over 10 times in the second half, five times in each quarter.
“Of course it was frustrating,” said Faz Davalos, who was selected to the all-tournament team. “I didn’t know what was happening. But I think my teammates and my coaches told me how to react. And I tried next time, hoping it would start working, but we ran out of time.”
Bulldogs junior center Bego Faz Davalos had four blocked shots in the game and set a Mountain West record for career blocks with 346. Faz Davalos passed Jordan Adams, who had 344 for New Mexico from 1999 to 2003.
In the tournament, the Broncos (25-7) averaged 21.0 points in the fourth quarter in their three games.
In the final they hit only 4 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter, but got to the foul line 12 times and with nine free throws outscored the Bulldogs 18-11.
“You know, I thought we made a run to begin with,” White said. “It was 8-2. I thought we started the game the way we wanted to. I thought Boise played a great game. They were able to score. And there was a time when there was a drought there, in, I think it was the third quarter, early fourth quarter, that we just needed to score. I said to my assistants, if we would have scored we’d have been up 10.
“But we struggled to score late. I think we ran out of gas there in the fourth quarter; four games in five days is really tough. Really proud of our kids. Made a run and really believed that we could win that game, and I guess as a coach that’s all you can ask.”
Fresno State (18-14) waits until next week to learn if it’s invited to a postseason tournament.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada