Porter leads ‘Dogs in the final home game

Maddi Utti (11) with a field goal in the second half against Nevada at the Save Mart Center on Saturday Feb. 22, 2020. (Armando Carreno/The Collegian)

Fresno State women’s basketball guard Jordanna Porter had the ball at the top of the key and drove it inside against Nevada guard Alyssa Jimenez, finishing with her left hand.

For any other player, this would be any other basket, but for Porter, it was her last at the Save Mart Center. Porter, along with forward Lydia Friberg and center Katelin Noyer, played her final home game as a Bulldog. 

The Fresno State Bulldogs went on to beat the Nevada Wolf Pack 69-58 and earn their 12th straight win at the Save Mart Center. To end the game, Porter scored 13 points on Saturday and described the moment as “bittersweet.”

“I had a bunch of emotions going through my mind just like the rest of the seniors did. We just wanted to come out, contribute and win as a team – just like we’ve been doing all season,” Porter said. “To do that and start with all the seniors in my last game here was kind of emotional, but we came and did what we had to do, and we got it done.”

To start the game, the Bulldogs featured a starting lineup with Friberg, Noyer and Porter. The seniors scored seven of the team’s first nine points and the ‘Dogs jumped out to an early 15-7 lead. 

By the second quarter, Fresno State led 27-13 after Porter drained a corner in transition. The Bulldogs then went through a scoring drought, and Wolf Pack guard Da’Ja Hamilton made a three to cut the lead to 27-22.

The Bulldogs then went on a 9-3 run to close the half. Junior forward Maddi Utti led all scorers with 13 points and scored the team’s last five points to push the lead to 36-25. 

Both teams struggled to shoot the ball in the third. The Bulldogs made only 46.2 percent (6-of-13) of their shots from the field, the Wolf Pack converted only 23.8 percent (5-of-21).

When Hamilton made a layup in transition, both teams had only scored four points by the five-minute mark. 

To end the quarter, Fresno State went on a 9-2 run led by Utti with back-to-back layups and a free throw. The Bulldogs continued their offensive momentum in the fourth, extending their lead to 56-37 — their largest lead of the night.

Nevada would end up cutting the deficit to 63-56 with a minute left in the game after guard Essence Booker made a three-pointer. The Bulldogs answered back and held on to their lead.

Fresno State guard Haley Cavinder moved past a screen to get some space from her defender and made a floater to extend the lead to nine, closing the game with 36 seconds left.

The Bulldogs had a big advantage scoring inside, making 38 points in the paint and holding Nevada to only 16. 

Nevada had 16 second-chance points and 17 offensive rebounds, but Fresno State was able to hold them to 35.3 percent (24-of-68) shooting from the field and 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from three.

Bulldogs head coach Jaime White said she was really impressed by the defensive effort.

“I thought the biggest thing was our defense, holding a team to 58 (points), and I think they normally score 67, that was a big deal,” White said. “Just kind of grinding it out, not a pretty game, Nevada is a good team. They came back there at the end, but I thought we did a good job.”

Wolf Pack head coach Amanda Levens said the team struggled offensively despite the late defensive effort.

“You know, I think ultimately we didn’t just make enough shots,” Levens said. “Defensively, after the first quarter, you don’t give up almost 20 points in the first quarter then hold them to 45 points the next three quarters. I think that was really good because they’re a really good offensive team, but we need to play better offensively.”

Fresno State bounced back after losing 88-65 to Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colo. White said the team’s focus hasn’t changed since then despite losing the 14-game winning streak.

“We had a good practice the same day we got back from Air Force. We had a good, hard practice and everybody came and responded, and that’s what good teams do, that’s what championship teams do,” White said. “Even though they’re tired, they know what it means, they know we got to get in and get it done.”

Utti, who finished with 18 points, said it’s been great to learn from the seniors and see them work hard every day.

“They’ve [the seniors] been really great through everything. JP [Porter] came out today and scored 3-of-5 from three, which was really impressive, and she was 3-for-3 at first. But Kate [Noyer] and Lydia have both worked really hard all three years, and it showed on the court today that hard work pays off.”

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