Fresno State bolted to one of its best starts of the season only to crumble at the end, and with the collapse came the end of an unbeaten run in the Mountain West women’s basketball race.
The Bulldogs (12-8, 8-1) played one of their best first quarters in conference games, forcing seven Spartans turnovers, four during a 16-3 scoring run that put them in front 25-11, but eventually fell 66-64 to San Jose State on Wednesday.
Last season, the Bulldogs won nine straight to open conference play and took an overall 13-game run on a trip to San Jose State, only to lose 56-51. Now the Spartans (8-14, 6-5) also have their first win in Fresno since the 2001-02 season.
“We did well early, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves, ever, ever, and I think that’s what we learned tonight,” coach Jaime White said.
“It’s not like we didn’t think it was going to be a hard game. They played better than us tonight and that’s frustrating but that’s how it is.”
It makes me sick to my stomach.
Alex Furr after Fresno State’s 66-64 loss to San Jose State
Fresno State climbed to a 15-point lead in the second quarter, but couldn’t quell San Jose State (8-14, 6-5), which answered with an 11-0 run to trim the deficit to four with 50 seconds left until halftime.
The Bulldogs got some breathing room on Alex Furr’s three-pointer just before the break for a seven-point lead. And things appeared to be in their favor after the third quarter, as they stretched their lead to 53-42.
The Spartans, however, turned up their defense, and Fresno State was doomed to suffer its worst fourth-quarter output of the conference season.
Fresno State had 20 turnovers for the game, compared to San Jose State’s 12.
The Bulldogs made just 30.8 percent of their shots in the fourth, a sizable drop after shooting 55.6, 44.4 and 53.8 across the previous three quarters.
The Spartans made five in a row to spark an 11-2 run highlighted by Emily Vann’s three-pointer that gave San Jose State its first lead of the night, 62-59, with 2:52 remaining.
Brittany Aikens pulled the Bulldogs within one, 65-64, on a three-pointer with exactly 1 minute to go.
A late foul by Shauqunna Collins sent Nyre Harris to the line, where she made 1 of 2 for a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs called a timeout to advance the ball upcourt, but couldn’t get by a Spartans defense that had three fouls to give.
On the next three in-bound plays, the Spartans swarmed the Bulldogs and fouled, ultimately cutting the time on the clock to 0.8 – just enough for one last go at the basket.
Freshman Breanne Knishka threw the ball in to Bego Faz Davalos near the top of the key, but her jumper was deflected by Harris at the buzzer.
“It’s not easy, especially with 5 seconds left,” White said. “I thought they were brilliant. They let a few seconds come off, then they would foul. We got the ball to the right person, but before we could pass there was a foul. So at the very, very last play, we had to go in. We have less seconds than we initially thought and it’s practically a tip-in.”
Furr led Fresno State with 12 points, hitting four three-pointers. Toni Smith added 10 points and seven rebounds. Riana Byrd had a game-high 17 points to lead San Jose State.
FRESNO STATE AT UNLV
- Saturday: 3 p.m. at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas
- Records: Bulldogs 12-8, 8-1 Mountain West; Rebels 13-8, 6-4 (beat New Mexico 57-48 on Wednesday)
- Last meeting: Bulldogs won 58-54 in Fresno on Dec. 30
- Webcast: Mountain West Network (themw.com)