Fresno State’s perfect start in the Mountain West women’s basketball race is over, but the Bulldogs believe they are ready to bounce back Saturday at UNLV.
A loss to San Jose State on Wednesday stung, as it marked – almost to the day – the second consecutive season that the Spartans halted a streaking Bulldogs team. But unlike last year, the Bulldogs are hoping they won’t let this loss weigh on them as they enter the second half of the conference season.
When the Spartans snapped Fresno State’s 13-game win streak (including 9-0 in the Mountain West) in 2014-15, it created a domino effect. The Bulldogs lost three in a row and never fully recovered, finishing third in the league.
We got to focus on what went right and what went wrong and how to move forward.
Fresno State coach Jaime White
Coach Jaime White is hoping that won’t be the case this year, with consecutive road games awaiting Saturday in Las Vegas and Feb. 10 at San Diego State.
“The sun comes up,” White said. “There’s learning lessons, and you’ve got to move forward. We’ve had experience in all the things we’re going through, so, hopefully, we can rely back on that and say, ‘OK, this is what we did, this is how we can change it, and this is how we’ll move on.’ ”
Senior co-captain Toni Smith agreed.
“It’s definitely something we think about,” she said. “Even though last year is similar to this year, I just feel like we definitely know what we can do now. We know how it feels (to lose after a winning streak), and that’s an advantage for us. It’s a good opportunity for us to show we know how to bounce back from mistakes now.”
Wednesday’s loss was the result of a mistake-riddled fourth quarter that saw the Bulldogs commit too many turnovers and make too few defensive stops.
I feel like that game doesn’t define us as a team. Yeah, it happens, but it made us realize that there are a lot of things we need to work on.
Bulldogs’ senior co-captain Toni Smith
“Here’s the problem: We’ve been bad defensively and still scored; we’ve been bad offensively and still got stops,” White said. “But both those things haven’t happened at the same time often in conference.”
Not everything went badly, as the Bulldogs (12-8, 8-1 MW) did put up one of their best first quarters this season. Now the goal is to stretch those commanding 10 minutes into a full 40.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Smith said, “but I love challenges, and I’m ready for this game.”
Scouting the Rebels – UNLV (13-8, 6-4) has won five of six in the Mountain West to move into fourth place behind Colorado State, Fresno State and Boise State. The Rebels are 9-2 at home, including four wins in a row against conference opponents.
UNLV’s only losses at Cox Pavilion were to Drake (76-68 on Nov. 29) and Colorado State (64-56 on Jan. 6).
Ex-Hanford High star Brooke Johnson led her team in scoring for the fifth time Wednesday with 16 points in a 57-48 win against New Mexico. She was 3 for 5 on three-pointers, with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
Johnson is averaging 12.9 points per game, second to Dakota Gonzalez’s 13.8. Johnson has started 20 of 21 games and leads her team in free-throw shooting at 83.3 percent (55 of 66) and steals (60).
Nikki Wheatley, who, like Johnson and Gonzalez, is a sophomore guard, is averaging 10.9 points per game.
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 on Dec. 30 in Fresno
- Webcast: Mountain West Network (themw.com)