LAS VEGAS — Fresno State dominated the regular-season series against Boise State, stymieing the Broncos’ chances to turn possessions into baskets through its pressure defense.
Thursday night was no different.
Never in danger of being victim to an upset, No. 2 Fresno State intensified the pressure against the seventh-seeded Broncos in Mountain West Conference tournament play.
The Bulldogs forced the Broncos to commit 29 turnovers, a conference tournament record, in their 72-55 quarterfinal win Thursday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.
“Obviously it’s a good confidence booster for our team,” said Rosie Moult, who finished the night with 15 points and four steals.
“Our main objective today was to start out hard, be aggressive with our press. I think them getting 29 turnovers was a result of our tough press.”
Aggressive might be an understatement.
Fresno State controlled the pace from the start, unleashing a press that forced 14 turnovers en route to a 32-6 run.
Ki-Ki Moore led the way for the Bulldogs, scoring 17 points and forcing four steals.
The defense gave Fresno State a surplus of opportunities to score. The Bulldogs’ 77 shot attempts (they finished the night completing 28 of them) was a conference tournament record.
“We wanted to play pretty fast tonight to get them up and down with us. … I think they got tired pretty fast,” said Moore, this season’s Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
And it was that – the stuffy, in-your-face, full-court and all-around pressure that fatigued the Broncos early – that kept Fresno State’s lead safe within double digits when the shots started cooling down in the second half.
The Bulldogs, who shot 18-of-38 (47.4 percent) in the first half, dropped to 10-of-39 (25.6) in the second half.
“I don’t think we did as good of a job to open the second half, just knocking down some shots that we created for ourselves,” Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley said.
Lauren Lenhardt, whom Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said “tweaked her knee” prior to Thursday’s game, led the Broncos with 13 points and seven blocks – also a Mountain West tournament record.
But “the room shrunk on us, after we turned it over, probably a little insecure, in the first 10 minutes,” Presnell said.
And just how stifling was Fresno State’s defensive play against the Broncos?
Consider: the Bulldogs, who led 41-23 at the half, scored 26 points off turnovers, and Boise State was held to 8-of-25 shooting in the first half – when the Bulldogs forced the bulk of the Broncos’ turnovers.
Taylor Thompson forced a game-high six steals. Alex Sheedy scored 13 points, and Bree Farley contributed 10 for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State will face Wyoming in today’s semifinal match at 2 p.m.
“I’ve seen us play consistent defense like that,” Pebley said. “I’ve also seen us not play great defense. It’s really, again, I think what these young women commit themselves to.”
“We’ve got a lot of different defensive schemes, different attacks. It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s about them executing. You know, they do a great job with it.
“We’re going to play consistently great defense in this next game.”