Fresno State got kicked right in the teeth of its defense, giving up a run built on 3-point shots and then a lead in an eventful third quarter on Saturday at Colorado State.
But the Bulldogs were able to come away with smiles intact and in good position for a final stretch run in the Mountain West Conference race, rebounding and racing through overtime behind junior guard Candice White in a 75-64 victory at Moby Arena.
With White pouring in 29 points including 12 in the overtime, they extended a winning streak to six games while ending a Rams’ run at six games; reset back to zero.
Fresno State is now the hottest team in the conference, not a bad place to be in a crazy tight race. Starting play Saturday, there were five teams in the Mountain West with 10 wins, all separated by one-half game with Wyoming and UNLV 10-3 and the Bulldogs, Colorado State and Boise State all 10-4.
“We’re hoping to keep it going,” White said. “This is the fun time of the year.”
The overtime definitely was for the Bulldogs, who also got 17 points from Kristina Cavey and 10 from freshman Aly Gamez and pounded Colorado State on the boards, holding a 51-31 rebounding advantage.
Once there, White picked up the Bulldogs (16-10, 11-4 in the MW).
The junior guard scored the Bulldogs’ first eight points, knocking down a 3-pointer with 3:53 to go, another with 3:17 remaining and scoring on a drive to the basket with 2:42 to play, and outscored Colorado State in the extra five minutes by herself 12-7.
“Candice played Candice,” said White, the Fresno State coach.
Going back out on the floor, scoring the ball was not the focus.
“It was stop, score, stop,” said White, the leading scorer in the Mountain West at 17.1 points per game. “We do this game in practice and we have to get two stops in order to get off the court and I think that’s what our focus was as a team and that’s what helped us in the end. Stop, score, stop, that’s what I was thinking.
“At the end of the day everyone knows how to shoot. The hard part is defensively, getting rebounds, getting stops. I think that was good, so then I didn’t force too much stuff.”
Fresno State did get Colorado State sped up in the overtime, when the 8-0 run by White turned a one-point deficit to a seven-point lead at 67-60. The Rams had no answers, missing contested threes. But outside of that third quarter, when they hit four 3-pointers against a Bulldogs’ defense that went in fifth in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, the Rams struggled at the offensive end.
Colorado State hit just 32.9 percent of its shots, 27.3 percent from the 3-point line.
“Good to get this one for going down the stretch,” said White, the Bulldogs’ coach. “It’s a good confidence builder. We hadn’t been in overtime yet.
“We’re trying to just stay focused on the task at hand. Obviously, we have some young kids and they don’t know, and that’s fine. We definitely would like to get that bye (at the conference tournament) and keep playing games. We know they’re finding ways to figure it out and that’s all you can ask.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada