The Fresno State women’s basketball team had ample time over the holidays to reset and is set to hit the court running as the Bulldogs open Mountain West play against UNLV at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Save Mart Center.
The Bulldogs (4-7) will have had 11 days off since their last game, a 78-63 loss at Utah.
For center Bego Faz Davalos, it was a much-needed break, as she got to return to Mexico and spend Christmas with her family in San Luis Potosí.
The Bulldogs have won 11 straight conference openers, dating to the 2004-05 season.
The 21-year-old redshirt sophomore has been playing basketball nearly non-stop since the summer, representing Mexico at the World University Games in South Korea. She was one of only three players at the tournament to average a double-double with 10.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
After that, it was right into the preseason training with Fresno State and getting ready for classes.
It was a lot for Davalos.
“There are some days that are really hard because you just feel heavy and you don’t want to do it anymore,” she said.
But then she remembers what all that work was for: a potential Mountain West title.
“All the work you put in in the summer, September, October, it’s for this,” Davalos said. “Everybody is ready to start conference.”
Davalos has developed her game since last season, something she credits to her international experience. She went from averaging 5.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in her freshman season to 13.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks through the first 11 games this season.
“She’s developed a lot and matured a lot in the last year,” Bulldogs coach Jaime White said. “There were times when she would struggle and she was unable to change her game based on what the defense was doing or what we were asking. This year, she’s been able to adapt as the game goes on.”
Her English has also improved greatly, as she’s gotten more comfortable with her accent around reporters. Last year, teammate Toni Smith, who also speaks Spanish (she’s studying for a minor), helped Davalos break that language barrier.
“I’m still learning a lot and I’m proud of it,” Davalos said. “Classes have definitely gotten easier, too.”
But her most gratifying moment came just over a month ago when her older sister, María José, asked for some help with her résumé.
“When I was little, she was the one knowing English, so I was like ‘Are you serious?’ I was so proud I almost cried because it’s one of my dreams to help my sister with English,” Davalos said.
Davalos leads the conference in rebounds and blocks and leads the Bulldogs in scoring. She’s third in the country in blocks, 16th in rebounds per game and one of just 15 NCAA D-I players to record a triple-double this season.
Fresno State will need a big presence from Davalos and the rest of her teammates against the Rebels (7-4).
The Bulldogs are coming off a lackluster preseason after not meeting their goal of a .500 record or better in their nonconference schedule.
It’s been a learning preseason. Our hope is that we’ve got it all figured out and hit the ground running as conference starts.
Jaime White, Fresno State coach
Scouting UNLV – The Rebels have won just two of their past six games after starting 5-0. Four UNLV players are averaging double-figures scoring, with ex-Hanford High standout Brooke Johnson leading at 14.6 points per game.
The 6-foot sophomore guard has started 10 games and is shooting at a 40 percent clip from the 3-point line while averaging of 33.3 minutes per game.
Last year, Johnson dropped 10 points at Fresno State in a 73-70 overtime win, which also was her first collegiate game scoring in double figures.
“(She) is as good as any guard in our league and she likes to come home and put it on us,” White said.
UNLV center Aley Rohde will battle it out with Davalos for control in the paint. Rohde is second in rebounding in the Mountain West at 9.5 per game, behind only Davalos.
“To be honest, it comes down to stopping their transition and making sure we’re in position to get good rebounds,” White added.
Women’s basketball: Mountain West opener
UNLV AT FRESNO STATE
- Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 4-7, Rebels 7-4
- Series: UNLV leads 16-12 and won the last meeting 73-70 in overtime Feb. 11, 2015
- Internet/radio: Mountain West Network (www.themwc.com)/KFPT (AM 790)