It’s a battle between the two best programs in the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball race, but it carries little weight for the postseason with the maps to Las Vegas nearly drawn out.
Fresno State will play its final road game of the regular season Tuesday night against first-place Colorado State. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs will try to derail the nationally ranked No. 22 Rams, winners of 23 in a row, in their only meeting of the regular season.
The Rams (26-1, 16-0) have all but locked up the regular-season crown. Even with a loss to Fresno State, Colorado State would have to fall to last-place Air Force in the season finale to force a first-place tie (assuming the Bulldogs win at home against Utah State on Friday).
A loss to Air Force is unlikely, though the Falcons gave Fresno State a scare last week in Colorado Springs, Colo., before losing 63-48.
The Bulldogs (18-9, 14-2) are set as the conference’s No. 2 seed and focused on using these remaining regular-season games to better prepare for Las Vegas.
Fresno State has won five in a row, largely because of redshirt sophomore Bego Faz Davalos, who was named the conference’s Player of the Week on Monday.
Faz Davalos led the Bulldogs in scoring in wins over Air Force and New Mexico (51-43) with 18 and 17 points and has scored in double figures 20 times this season. She’s proven not only to be an inside threat but a factor at the free-throw line, where she made 9 of 9 against the Lobos. She’s averaging 12.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Defensively, Faz Davalos is a blocking machine, having set the conference season record for blocks (currently 112) and tying her season record for blocks in conference games (70).
But the 6-foot-3 center isn’t the only Bulldog doing her part. Faz Davalos said the team is playing more cohesively than it has all season.
Senior forward Toni Smith, who won the weekly honor last week, is tied with Shauqunna Collins for second on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game, and Alex Furr and Moriah Faulk recently have stepped up on defense.
“It’s because we’re a team now,” Faz Davalos said last week. “Everybody is putting something in. Like a good pass, a good rebound. It can be a steal, scoring, defending, whatever. Everybody is doing their job now, and I think it’s amazing how we’re transforming and complementing each other. That’s key because that’s how we win.”
The Bulldogs will need to play together to contain a hot-shooting Colorado State team, which leads the conference in field-goal percentage (44.5), three-point shooting percentage (33.7) and assists (15.4 per game).
The Rams have a balanced attack led by seniors Jamie Patrick and ex-Edison High School and Fresno City standout Keyora Wharry. Patrick is averaging 12.6 points, and her 40.7 percent accuracy from beyond the arc ranks second in the Mountain West. Wharry has started all 27 games in her senior season and is averaging 10.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. She’s also shooting a team-best 51.4 percent, fourth in the conference, one spot behind Faz Davalos (52.0).
Defensively, the Rams are fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage, allowing their opponents to make just 33.3 percent.
“It’s going to be a tough game, and it’s going to be different for us,” Bulldogs coach Jaime White said. “They have a different brand of basketball. We’re going to have to really recognize where they’re at on the court without taking away from our defense. We need to make sure we keep doing what we were doing on the court (against New Mexico).”
FRESNO STATE VS. NO. 22 COLORADO STATE
- Tuesday: 6 p.m. at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.
- Records: Bulldogs 18-9, 14-2 MW; Rams 26-1, 16-0
- Series: Colorado State leads 10-7 all-time
- Last meeting: Rams won 70-56 on Feb. 18, 2015, in Fort Collins
- Webcast: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)