Fresno State’s women’s basketball team sputtered through the preseason but there’s apparently nothing like the sight of Mountain West Conference play to ignite the Bulldogs.
A 58-54 win over UNLV on Wednesday made it 12 straight wins in league openers for Fresno State. A crowd of 4,760 fans turned out at Save Mart Center as the Bulldogs improved to 5-7 overall.
The Rebels (7-5, 0-1) climbed to a nine-point lead out of the gate. Sophomore guard Brooke Johnson, the ex-Hanford High standout, drilled a three-pointer in front of the Fresno State bench.
We got down early, but we turned it around at halftime and came back and did a good job to finish the game out. You’re going to have some ups and downs, but our kids did a good job.
Fresno State coach Jaime White
But the Bulldogs clawed back behind seniors Alex Furr and Brittany Aikens, who fueled a comeback across three quarters.
Furr made a three-pointer, layup and two free throws to help cut the deficit to one at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, the Bulldogs kept whittling away at UNLV from inside, scoring 10 straight points from the key to go into halftime down 30-29.
The Bulldogs took a brief lead on Aikens’ short-range jumper with 1:54 to go, but Johnson kept the Rebels barely in front, hitting her second three-pointer just before halftime. .
5-0 Bulldogs record this season when holding opponents to less than 60 points
Fresno State finished the Rebels in the second half with smothering defense that led to UNLV shooting droughts in the third and fourth quarters.
UNLV missed five straight from the field during a 5-minute stretch in the third and also committed four turnovers that the Bulldogs cashed in for an eight-point lead with 3:40 left in the period.
Aikens highlighted the stretch, hitting a jumper and three-pointer to make it 42-34. She credited the extra rest from winter break for the team’s strong offensive performance.
“I feel like ever since we’ve gotten back from the break, we’ve been shooting well as a team,” she said.
15% UNLV’s three-point shooting percentage against Fresno State, making just 3 of 20 attempts including 0 of 9 in the second half. The Rebels entered the Save Mart Center shooting 31.3 percent (51-163) through their first 11 games.
The Rebels missed nine straight field goals in the last 5 minutes while losing their third straight. Johnson finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including two three-pointers. Amie Callaway had 13 to lead the Rebels.
Aikens finished with a career-high 12 points and Furr had 11, going 4 for 4 on free throws.
FRESNO STATE AT NEW MEXICO
- Saturday: 1 p.m. at WisePies Arena
- Records: Bulldogs 5-7, 1-0 Mountain West; Lobos 8-4, 1-0 (beat Nevada 51-47 on Wednesday)
- Internet: Mountain West Network (www.themwc.com)