Fresno State senior guard Robin Draper pushes through coverage during Wednesday’s game against the UNLV Lady Rebels. (Paul Schlesinger/The Collegian)
With 3.9 seconds left on the clock on Wednesday, UNLV’s Nikki Wheatley tossed the basketball to Danielle Miller, who was standing outside the key. She made the desperate shot attempt – a crucial 3-pointer needed to tie the game – and swished it in.
Fresno State guard Alex Furr, who was defending Miller, bent down and stared ahead. She couldn’t believe what had happened. The ‘Dogs’ bench was beside itself. And a reported 2,931 people at the Save Mart Center sounded like only 31 people were in the arena: deafening silence.
It wasn’t what was planned. The Fresno State women’s basketball team did not play its best basketball, head coach Jaime White admitted, but it had the Lady Rebels right where it wanted them.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
In overtime, the ‘Dogs were down eight points on two separate occasions: 67-59 with 2:26 left and 69-61 with 57 seconds remaining in the game. But in the final minute, Fresno State battled back. Guard Shauqunna Collins banked in two 3-pointers that brought Fresno State within three.
After fouling to stop the clock (which gave UNLV one extra point), Furr took a Collins offering and turned it into a 3 to put the ‘Dogs one point closer. At this point, all the ‘Dogs needed to do was get another opportunity like Miller had to tie the game for the Lady Rebels.
Miller was fouled again to stop the clock, made her two free throws, and the Bulldogs tried again to go to Furr to attempt the game-tying 3.
This time, the shot fell short. With the 73-70 loss, the ‘Dogs are riding their first losing streak since a two-game stretch in December 2012.
For the Bulldogs, the feeling is unnatural. With wins adding up, especially over conference opponents, the team is unsure of how to feel about the losses, White says.
“The overall theme is that we had the chance to win both games: San Jose State and UNLV,” she said, alluding to the 56-51 loss to the Spartans last Friday. “One of the girls said it best. She said that we have won for so long that we don’t know how to react after a loss.”
On Thursday, the Bulldogs took the opportunity to look at game tape and see where their weaknesses were in the loss, including Miller’s game-tying shot.
“I couldn’t remember exactly how [Furr] defended it,” White said. “We were talking about defending the 3, which is the only thing that could hurt us. We could have switched out. We could have done a million things.”
But at the end of the day, White said, it was just a nice shot.
“Obviously, 3.9 seconds doesn’t win or lose the game,” White said. “You just want to execute in that amount of time. Overall, I felt like we didn’t play well the last two games.”
But there’s no time to focus on what should have happened, at least not for White. The ‘Dogs will fly to Boise today to prepare for a tougher Mountain West opponent: the Boise State Broncos.
Saturday’s matchup will see a battle of the No. 1 team in the conference – a spot the ‘Dogs still have due to a Colorado State’s loss on Wednesday – and the fourth-place team that is only two games behind.
The Broncos are 7-4 in conference play, but one record stands out: a 10-1 overall record at home. The last time the ‘Dogs traveled to Boise, they beat the Broncos in overtime.
This year, the ‘Dogs are travelling after an overtime loss, with the need to keep control on the first-place spot in the conference. Last season, the ‘Dogs entered the season-ending tournament with five conference losses; in 2013 they had three.