Fresno State had Candice White on the floor, doing what she usually does, scoring 29 points with five assists, five rebounds and one steal.
The Bulldogs got good minutes from Maddi Utti, Aly Gamez and Katelin Noyer, and cut off a run of points in the paint, which for three quarters were the Pacific Tigers’ primary source of offense.
They were up six, inside of five minutes to play in the opening round of the Women’s NIT and on the home floor at the Save Mart Center.
But they just couldn’t close, hitting just one of their last seven shots and turning over the ball six times in a 77-72 loss Wednesday night.
“We had the opportunity,” said White, a senior from Modesto Christian High who was a two-time first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection. “We didn’t take care of the ball like we wanted to toward the end … I think they just out-hustled in the end and that’s even harder to lose by because you know you could have given a little more effort.”
The Bulldogs (19-13) are done, one win shy of the 17th 20-win season in program history and with coach Jaime White one win shy of win No. 100 at Fresno State.
The turnovers were just too much to overcome, and it hit everyone on the floor.
Gamez had one. Utti had one. Bree Delaney had two. Down one with one minute to play, White lost the ball in the lane, the Tigers’ Ameela Li coming up with a steal.
That led to a missed layup at the other end, an offensive rebound, one of 19 for the Tigers in the game, and eventually a pair of foul shots by Li.
“We wanted to get the ball to Candice and once she got the ball we felt like we were comfortable once she got the ball and then that wasn’t necessarily the case,” White said. “It was all of our guards. It’s not like it wasn’t our guards that had control of the ball.
“I thought Pacific did a good job. They tightened it up, and we wanted to make sure that we had our timeouts for dead balls and to advance it.”
Fresno State during the season ranked third in the Mountain West in fewest turnovers, but it had 19 in the loss to Pacific, one shy of a season-high 20 in a loss at Arizona State.
The Tigers scored 18 points off those turnovers and had only four points in the paint in the final quarter (36 in the game), the two layups coming off steals.
Coach on season
“Disappointing outcome, but a successful year,” White said. “I’m proud of our kids. We’ve had a very long year. We started in July and went on the international tour, so we’ve been trying to keep them together and keep them healthy for a while and I think they’ve kind of had their toll. Not to give them an excuse, I didn’t feel our last game was indicative of how we played even at the (Mountain West) tournament.
“We had a chance to win, we just turned the ball over late and turned it over right to layups and that was unfortunate for sure.”
White No. 3
It was the last game for three seniors – Raven Johnson, Breanne Knishka and White, who ends her career No. 3 on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list with 1,697 points.
The thing she’ll remember the most?
“Definitely, the fans,” White said. “The young fans. Actually, all ages of the fans. Just seeing them after every game and being able to talk to them, relate with them and just build relationships over my four years here …
“They just love the Bulldog song. It’s just really nice to see them all engaging in it. They’re just so proud of us and they tell us all the time, any time they get the chance to.”
The Bulldogs men’s basketball program will hold its awards banquet April 2 at Pardini’s.
A social hour starts at 6 p.m., with dinner and awards running 7-8:30.
Tickets are $50 for adults, $20 for children under 12 and $500 for a table of 10 and must be purchased by March 25.
The Bulldogs were led by seniors Deshon Taylor, Braxton Huggins and Sam Bittner and went 23-9 in the first season under coach Justin Hutson. They advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament, losing to eventual champion Utah State.
Taylor was a first-team All-Mountain West selection for the second year in a row, ranking in the top 10 in nine of 13 statistical categories, more than any player in the conference. Huggins, who averaged 19.8 points per game in conference play, was a second-team selection and the Newcomer of the Year.