The Fresno State women’s basketball’s time in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Tournament has come to an end in the semifinals against the number one seeded Boise State as a come-back effort was stalled in a 89-77 defeat on Tuesday.
Fresno State (19-12, MW 11-7) advanced to the semifinals after a second round win on Monday, coasting to a 66-55 victory against UNLV, marking the sixth time in seven seasons the Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals.
Looking to keep the momentum going from their quarterfinal win from the day before, the Bulldogs came ou strong against a Boise State (27-4, MW 6-2) team that the ‘Dogs failed to beat twice during the regular season.
Senior guard Candice White led the Bulldogs one final time as she finished the game with 28 points on 9 of 20 shooting, with 9 of those points coming from behind the arc. White also was tied for a team high 7 rebounds with Maddi Utti.
For the first quarter, the teams turned the Thomas and Mack Center into a track meet, turning the speed of the game up to 11, trading shots blow for blow. Both teams’ defenses were nearly non-existent, as each team were able to get behind each other’s transitioning defense to score.
Boise State’s Marta Hermida pushed the Broncos out to an early 24-18 lead in the first quarter by scoring 11 points with nine coming from three 3-pointers.
Once again, the ‘Dogs struggled with defending Boise State’s 3-point shooting, a weakness that was prevalent in the two previous games against the Broncos.
Despite the struggles, the Bulldogs were able to keep the game close for the first half thanks to the shooting of White, 15 of her 28 points in the first half. Along with White sophomore, Aly Gamez kept the ‘Dogs in the game for the first half, with the score deadlocked at 36 going into the second half.
The teams exchanged buckets until the 3:45 mark of the third quarter when the Broncos hit its third consecutive 3-pointer to cap off a 14-5 run for the Broncos widening the lead to 55-43.
Toward the end of the quarter, the Bulldogs were able to claw their way back in the form of layups and free-throws by sophomore forward Bree Delaney, White and Utti who added 11 on the night for the ‘Dogs.
The effort of White and Gamez, who scored 18 points in the game, continued as White opened the final quarter with a layup and a 3-pointer with an assist from Gamez to bring the score 60-57 with 9:36 to go in the game.
Gamez added a layup of her own, which was then followed by a three point play by White that saw her get fouled hard while driving to the basket to bring the Boise State lead down to one point.
Unfortunately for the ‘Dogs, that would be as close as it got after continuing to trade baskets with the Broncos. The Boise State offense was too much for the Bulldogs to hang with as they continued to hit shots consecutively.
As the final minutes slipped away the lead became insurmountable for the ‘Dogs to overcome as the Broncos led by as much as 10 points with less than two minutes to go.
For the Bulldogs the loss capped off a decent season that was filled with much more expectation going into November, as they were unable to make the MW Tournament finals for the second consecutive year, with the last appearance being in 2017.
In the postgame press conference head coach Jaime White explained where the Bulldogs came up short in their effort to stop Hermida and the Broncos 3-point shooting overall.
“You have Marta, who doesn’t always hit them but surely hit them tonight. And we put her at the free-throw line there at the end for eight of those points,” said White. “And actually I thought we did a really good job on the inside game, but we just didn’t get to those 3s. And a lot of the 3s we didn’t get to were in transition.”
Despite the loss coach White spoke highly of both Gamez and Candice’s effort on Tuesday as they kept the Bulldogs afloat for most of the game.
“Proud of these two. Aly’s came to us last year and she’s been running the point guard spot, and really allowed Candice to be more of a shooting guard,” said White. “You’re proud of your kids for the fight that they had and I don’t think they ever hung their heads.”