Khlarissa Agee / The Collegian
LAS VEGAS – For the fourth year in a row, the Fresno State women’s basketball team is going dancing.
The No. 2-seed Bulldogs used their March momentum to hold off the No. 1-seed Colorado State Rams 77-68 Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center to win a second straight Mountain West Championship.
The ‘Dogs have secured the league’s automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. In two days, Fresno State will find its opponent through a selection show that will be on ESPN Monday at 4 p.m.
Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley credits the team’s perseverance through the season in helping the Bulldogs hoist another trophy.
“We went through a lot of adversity,” Pebley said, “and that adversity made us so much stronger and so much better.
“This was a great game. It never felt comfortable. It always felt like Colorado State was right on our heels. That’s because Colorado State is such a good team, a smart team and they play good defense.”
The ‘Dogs started the game on an 8-1 run and led by as many as 10, but Colorado State rallied to cut Fresno State’s lead to four (30-26) at halftime.
Fresno State led the whole way. The Bulldogs began the second period with a 15-8 run and every time the Rams got within reach, the ‘Dogs answered with a big play.
Toward the end, the Rams dug into the Fresno State lead by going on several runs and got within 5 with 5:48 to play. However, three consecutive baskets from the ‘Dogs prevented the Rams from cutting deeper into the lead.
The game ended with the ‘Dogs shooting free throws to hang on for the win.
Senior guard Bree Farley, one of three Bulldogs in double figures (26 points), said that knowing what to do in those situations is a huge advantage.
“I think [having experience] does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs,” Farley said, “because if you’re not experienced you can get really frazzled in that type of situation.
“Experience definitely helped us today.”
Taylor Thompson, the tournament’s most valuable player, had a impressive all-around game. She tallied 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We definitely came into [the game] knowing what we needed to do,” Thompson said. “We came in confident tonight. We knew that we needed to hit [shots]. Our team just did a great collective job inside and out.”
Junior Alex Sheedy added 12 points and six boards in her 24 minutes on the floor.
Fresno State outdueled UNLV and Nevada to get to this point, while Colorado State came out on top against Utah State and edged Wyoming in a triple-overtime thriller to earn a berth in the title game.
Rams Gritt Ryder and Elin Gustavsson were named to the All-Tournament Women’s Team along with Fresno State’s Bree Farley and Taylor Thompson. The other player to earn the honor was Wyoming forward Kayla Woodward.
The Bulldogs will enter the NCAA Tournament on an eight-game win streak.
With another championship to hoist, Farley and Thompson have won conference tournament titles every year that they have been at Fresno State.
“It’s certainly a great feeling. It definitely never gets old. It’s awesome every year,” Thompson said. “It’s something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
“I definitely won’t forget it. It’s definitely as awesome, awesome feeling.”