Fresno State pretty much already knows its postseason destination: the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.
Nationally ranked No. 25 Colorado State edged New Mexico 49-48 Wednesday for its first win at The Pit since 1998, and with it all but locked up the league’s regular-season title.
The Rams, unbeaten in league, must lose two of their next three and the second-place Bulldogs need to win out just to force a tie – which is highly unlikely since Colorado State plays the two worst teams in the conference in Nevada and Air Force, with a date against Fresno State sandwiched in between.
But these next three games are no gimmes for Fresno State (17-9, 13-2) starting with New Mexico at 2 p.m. Saturday before the trip to Colorado State on Tuesday and ending the regular season at home against Utah State on Friday.
The Lobos (14-12, 7-8) are tied with Utah State for sixth place and are battling for the last of five first-round byes at the conference tournament.
New Mexico has proven it’s a dangerous team, nearly ending the Rams’ unbeaten streak Wednesday and taking the Bulldogs to double overtime Jan. 2 at Save Mart Center (the Bulldogs won 69-65).
To get past the Lobos – and build a strong end to the regular season – second-year coach Jaime White said the Bulldogs needs to keep improving daily, especially when it comes to playing a full 40 minutes.
The Bulldogs are notorious this season for playing one or two bad quarters, especially near the start of games, then rallying after halftime.
“We’re doing better, but we’ve still got to put together four quarters,” White said. “Once we do that, we’ll be ready to go.”
Senior Toni Smith said the team feels the pressure, and it’s only motivated her and her teammates.
“We have a better focus,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because we know the tournament is coming up and we want to get that ring again, but at the same time, I feel like we’ve worked so hard. We’re in and out of the gym all day, and we have to keep that focus.”
It’s shown on the court as the Bulldogs are playing some of the most balanced basketball they have all season, with four players scoring in double figures in each of the last four games. On any given day, any player can and has stepped up to the plate for Fresno State, from bench players Moriah Faulk and Shauqunna Collins, to starters like Alex Furr and Brittany Aikens.
“Our kids are all recognizing that it takes a team,” White said. “At this time of year, you’ve got to adapt. Teams are going to put different things in, but we’ve got to be ready to play and play hard.
FRESNO STATE VS. NEW MEXICO
- Saturday: 2 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 17-9, 13-2 MW; Lobos 14-12, 7-8
- Series: Tied 9-9
- Last meeting: Bulldogs won 69-65 in 2OT on Jan. 2 in Fresno
- Webcast/Radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFPT (AM 790)
- Valley Pride Game: The Bulldogs will wear green uniforms to celebrate Valley Pride. Fans who wear green to the game will receive free admission. The first 150 fans through the turnstiles will receive a green-out shirt. The game will feature a halftime performance from Mutts in Motion.