Fresno State has remained confident this past week as it gears for Santa Clara in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The Bulldogs (21-11) came one layup short of the Mountain West Tournament crown, but are still headed to the postseason for the ninth consecutive year.
Redshirt sophomore center Bego Faz Davalos earned the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. According to coach Jaime White, that’s more than enough to rebuild Fresno State’s morale ahead of its 7 p.m. tipoff against the Broncos (23-8).
“I felt we did a pretty good job ending the conference and the run we made in the MW gave us a lot of confidence,” White said. “It’s similar to what last year was. You can’t expect anything. You just got to take what’s in front of you.”
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What’s in front is a matchup of former Big Sky Conference coaching opponents – White at Northern Colorado and JR Payne at Southern Utah. Both left those schools for their current jobs before the 2014-15 season.
Both coaches specialize in defense, though the Bulldogs will need to have extra focus if they want to continue to the second round against Oregon, which beat Long Beach State 84-76 in their first-round game Thursday.
The Broncos average 12.8 steals per game for a total of 396 this season – third-best in the NCAA. They also force their opponents into 21.8 turnovers per game, fifth-best in the country.
Offensively, Santa Clara is led by junior forwards and All-West Coast Conference players Lori Parkinson (11.7 points per game, 6.4 rebounds) and Marie Bertholdt (11.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
Fresno State, which has won four in a row at the Save Mart Center since a 66-64 loss against San Jose State on Feb. 3, has three players averaging double-figures in scoring: Faz Davalos (12.4), Toni Smith (10.8) and Shauqunna Collins (10.1). Faz Davalos also leads the Bulldogs in rebounds (9.4) and is tops in the nation in blocked shots with 127.
“We do a good job in playing teams the first time, and just recognizing things we need to do,” White said. “I think we’re dialed in and focused and ready to go.”
FRESNO STATE VS. SANTA CLARA
- Friday: 7 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 21-11, Broncos 23-8
- Series: Fresno State leads 23-15
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFPT (AM 790)
- Tickets: $11 for reserved seats, $8 for general admission and students get in free. Free parking available.