Fall semester grades are in and the holiday break is over, which means the Fresno State women’s basketball team is locked on one goal — the Mountain West Conference season.
But despite winning four straight games, including 68-59 at Oregon on Dec. 21, the Bulldogs (8-3) are treating Wednesday’s conference opener against New Mexico as a fresh start.
“The preseason has prepared us for conference, but the Mountain West is a whole new season in itself,” said associate coach Mandi Carver, who led Monday’s practice with Jaime White and the rest of the staff out recruiting. “Everyone starts out 0-0. We’ve all had the time to perfect what we want.”
For the Bulldogs, who were picked to finish fourth in the MW preseason poll, that’s a dynamic offensive attack led by senior forward Alex Sheedy, the 6-foot-1 Australian who is averaging 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds.
“It’s my role to be one of the players my team looks to and my role as a senior to step up when I need to,” Sheedy said. “We’re more in the flow of each other now. It’s easier to step in and play the game and not think about everything so much.”
Elsewhere, the dribble-drive attack fueled by Shauqunna Collins and Raven Fox and perimeter shooting by Alex Furr and Robin Draper have helped the Bulldogs to the second-ranked shooting percentage in the conference at 43% (265 of 618), behind Colorado State at 44%.
On the other end of the court, Fresno State is one of two MW teams (again Colorado State) to rank in the top four in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense, 3-point percentage defense, blocks, steals and defensive rebounds per game.
It’s a combination that has propelled the Bulldogs to one of the best starts in program history, with their 8-3 record their best nonconference finish since the 2004-05 team went 8-1. Before that, a Fresno State women’s basketball team hadn’t won eight or more nonconference games since 1994-95.
“Each year is different — you have new players, new mentality, new coaches,” Draper said. “You have to roll with what you have and what we have, I know, is a really strong team. Going into conference we have good rhythm, and this next game will be a good test to see how focused we are.”
After a start that included four losses to Top-25 teams, New Mexico has rebounded to a 4-7 record via a three-game winning streak. The Lobos are led by Anteshia Brown and Khadijah Shumpert, who are averaging 13.7 and 12.7 points per game.
“We all had a really good break,” Sheedy said. “We’ve all come back and had some really good practices. I think it’s going to be an exciting year for us. Conference is the time of year when everyone amps up, and steps up.”