Fresno State

Fresno State women’s basketball: Colorado State defeats Bulldogs in Mountain West final

For the first two quarters and a good part of the third, Fresno State made Colorado State and its 26-game winning streak look like a joke.

The Bulldogs were a step ahead, if not two, using a strong second quarter to bolt to a double-digit lead at halftime while thoroughly outplaying the top team in the conference at both ends of the floor, and it wasn’t all that close.

After all that, they ended up most likely going to the Women’s NIT and not the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs faltered badly in the fourth quarter and lost 55-54 in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the winning points coming from the foul line and conference Player of the Year Ellen Nystrom toward the end of a final 11-second stretch that no doubt will sting for a long while.

“I feel like I should just sing a sad song right now,” Bulldogs coach Jaime White said.

Fresno State (21-11), up by 14 at halftime and eight after three quarters, had a one-point lead and two chances to extend it inside 30 seconds to play. They whiffed twice when Moriah Faulk badly missed a layup and Toni Smith secured an offensive rebound but turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation.

Colorado State got a timeout, and the Bulldogs tried to foul down the remaining time to limit the Rams’ options for a final shot.

Fresno State had not been called for a foul to that point in the quarter, with four to give before the Rams would shoot free throws. Fouling cut the time remaining to six seconds, then five and finally 3.3.

The Rams, putting the ball in play from under the basket, ran a baseline out-of-bounds play to get the ball to Nystrom. She took the pass, turned to fire and was immediately fouled by Faulk – not the call from the bench.

“We got the clock down to about four,” White said. “At that timeout, (Colorado State coach Ryun Williams) took a timeout. At that timeout, we said no more fouling because they were going to shoot the ball and try to draw a foul, and so at that time we were like, ‘No fouls, stay straight up, get rebounds, no more fouling.’

“Then the shot came in – Nystrom made a good cut to get open, and then shot the ball, and we were in the wrong spot at the wrong time, that’s all.”

Said Faulk: “It was a mistake that happened. If I could go back I definitely would not have fouled.”

The free throws still had to go down, and Nystrom, 79.6 percent at the foul line, didn’t flinch – no nerves at all.

“No, nothing,” she said.

“She wasn’t missing,” Williams said.

“Nope, it was never in my mind,” Nystrom said.

The foul shots were the first points for Nystrom, who was 0 of 7 from the field in the game but did have 16 assists for No. 22-ranked Colorado State (31-1).

The Bulldogs’ final shot, off a drive by Shauqunna Collins, banked off the rim, the last of their four misses with four turnovers while going scoreless over the final 5:08. With composure down the stretch, it would not have come down to that.

In getting out to a 36-22 halftime lead, Fresno State hit 14 of 28 shots against the top-ranked defense in the Mountain West. The Rams allowed opponents to hit only 32.9 percent on average and 51.2 points per game. The Bulldogs also held Colorado State to just 27.6 percent shooting (8 of 29) after the Rams went in leading the conference in field-goal percentage in league games at 46.4 percent and scoring offense at 70.9 points per game.

Colorado State cut the deficit to 47-39 entering the final quarter. But after pushing the lead back to 10 on a layup by Bego Faz Davalos, the Bulldogs’ gap again started to shrink. There were three big baskets in the rally from Keyora Wharry, the former Edison High and Fresno City College star.

“We kept our poise,” said Wharry, who finished with 10 points. “We kept playing. We stuck to the game plan and just kept moving.”

For the Rams, who had failed to win the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed the past two years, the victory and title were overdue: They were 15-3 in conference play last season and lost to San Jose State in the quarterfinals; they were 15-3 in 2014 and lost to Fresno State in the championship.

The NCAA Tournament selection show will be broadcast live at 4 p.m. Monday on ESPN.

For Wharry, the hometown kid playing for the other guys, the win meant more than surviving and advancing. “I mean, it feels good, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t be more overjoyed right now with that one.”

As for the Bulldogs …

“I thought we had it in the bag, to be honest,” sixth-year senior Alex Furr said, “and we let it slip away.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada

No. 22 COLORADO STATE 55, FRESNO STATE 54

FRESNO STATE

Min

FGM-A

FTM-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Knishka

30

4-5

0-0

0-4

4

2

11

Smith

29

3-8

2-2

1-3

1

2

8

Faz Davalos

19

2-8

1-2

5-8

2

1

5

Aikens

29

0-2

0-0

2-5

4

1

0

Furr

38

4-7

2-2

0-3

1

0

12

Faulk

32

5-13

0-0

2-6

1

2

11

Collins

22

2-6

2-4

0-3

2

2

7

Volk

1

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Totals

200

20-49

7-10

13-37

15

10

54

Percentages: FG .408, FT .700. 3-Point Goals: 7-14, .500 (Knishka 3-4, Furr 2-3, Collins 1-2, Faulk 1-4, Aikens 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 1 (Knishka). Turnovers: 18 (Faulk 4, Aikens 3, Smith 3, Knishka, Faz Davalos, Volk, Collins, Furr). Steals: 4 (Faulk 3, Furr). Technical Fouls: None.

COLORADO STATE

Min

FGM-A

FTM-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Hesseldal

31

3-11

2-2

4-7

1

2

9

Gustavsson

27

5-11

0-0

1-2

1

3

10

Wharry

28

5-9

0-0

1-3

0

1

10

Nystrom

40

0-7

2-2

0-6

16

1

2

Patrick

38

3-9

0-0

1-2

1

2

9

Austgulen

24

5-6

0-0

0-1

0

0

14

Mirkovic

1

0-0

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

Arias

11

0-5

1-2

1-2

0

2

1

Totals

200

21-58

5-6

10-26

19

11

55

Percentages: FG .362, FT .833. 3-Point Goals: 8-20, .400 (Austgulen 4-5, Patrick 3-8, Hesseldal 1-2, Gustavsson 0-2, Nystrom 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 3 (Gustavsson, Arias, Patrick). Turnovers: 9 (Wharry 2, Nystrom 2, Gustavsson, Arias). Steals: 10 (Hesseldal 5, Patrick 2, Nystrom 2, Wharry). Technical Fouls: None.

Fresno St.

19

17

11

7

54

Colorado St.

16

6

17

16

55

A — 3,219. Officials — Lisa Jones, Melissa Barlow, Michael Price.

  Comments