Coming off its most dramatic win of the season, it’s only fitting that the Fresno State women’s basketball team will begin the Mountain West Conference race at the site of one of its most drama-filled victories of a year ago.
The Bulldogs, after a 5-6 nonconference start capped by last Wednesday’s 81-78 home victory over Weber State, take on Nevada at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Reno. A year ago, Fresno State swept the Wolf Pack, winning twice in the regular season and again in the first round of the conference tournament.
But each of those games was close.
Nevada took three shots at a go-ahead basket in the final 10 seconds of a 71-70 home loss Dec. 31. The Bulldogs won 68-54 at home in January, yet that was a one-point game in the final minute of the third quarter.
The postseason matchup in March in Las Vegas saw the Bulldogs build an 11-point lead with 6:37 remaining, but Nevada twice closed within three down the stretch before falling 62-57.
Gone from that Fresno State team is center Bego Faz Davalos. who in perhaps the best game of her career had 25 points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks and four steals in the tournament game.
This season, expectations are low for a Bulldogs program that until last season had been among the conference’s best since the school joined the Mountain West in 2012. Fresno State was picked seventh in this year’s conference preseason poll.
Nevada was 10th in a survey that saw Boise State (seven), Wyoming (six), Colorado State (six), New Mexico (four) and UNLV (two) all earn first-place votes.
Junior Candice White leads the Bulldogs and is third in the conference in scoring at 16.5 points per game. She is the only player in the nation still perfect from the free-throw line at 45 for 45 and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining to beat Weber State.
Fresno State is seventh in the 11-team Mountain West offensively (65.5 ppg) and defensively (69.6).
Nevada, which has won four straight to get to 7-4 in nonconference play, is fourth in scoring offense (68.6) and sixth on defense (68.6). Senior Teige Zeller, who earlier this month earned the first Mountain West Player of the Week honor of her career, is averaging career bests of 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Wolf Pack’s losses include an 88-57 home defeat at the hands of top-ranked UConn and 89-49 to now No. 17 Oregon State at the Maui Classic.
Janelle Sumilong (Hanford) is a freshman reserve for the Wolf Pack averaging 1.4 points while playing in seven games, including one start.