Bulldogs sweep Broncos, take over first place in Mountain West

Haley Cavinder (1) sets up at the key against a Boise State defender on Jan. 23, 2021 (Vendila Yang/ The Collegian)

The Fresno State women’s basketball team moved up to a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West (MW) Conference after beating the Boise State Broncos 67-64 on Saturday.

Even though Fresno State was leading by just one point, 63-62, Bulldogs’ guard Haley Cavinder took her time with the ball. She said she walked with a plan already in mind — shoot a 3. Part of her plan, she said, was to wait for the defender to ease up. 

After receiving a pass back from guard Aly Gamez, she saw an opening when forward Maddi Utti set a screen on the right wing, forcing the Broncos to switch and leaving Broncos’ forward Abby Muse to guard Cavinder. 

With nine seconds left on the shot clock, she needed to make a play. And despite Muse’s 6-foot-2-inch frame, Cavinder hoisted a 3-pointer on the right wing and drilled it to give Fresno State the 66-62 lead with 13 seconds left in the game.

“I was waiting for her to back up because I wanted to shoot it,” Cavinder said. “For some reason, she went low and I was like if she’s going to give me that room I’m going to make it.”

Broncos’ center Mallory McGwire scored a layup to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to two, 66-64, before Utti made a free throw to give Fresno State a 3-point lead.

Boise State called a timeout, but soon after Gamez and Boise State’s Jade Loville had a small altercation as they were lining up, resulting in technical fouls given to both players.

With 13.7 seconds left in the game, Boise State set up to score, but it wasn’t for three to tie the game. Instead, they battled in the paint for a layup, but Fresno State’s defense held its ground. 

Loville kept pushing in the paint, but Bulldogs’ guard Hanna Cavinder defended her without fouling. After Loville’s shot missed, Muse grabbed the offensive rebound and handed it to Broncos’ guard Mary Kay Naro for a three-point shot but it was too late. Time expired and the Bulldogs won.

Turns out, Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell thought the team was down by two.

“The head coach screwed up is what it’s called,” Presnell said. “I thought we were down two and that we needed the two. I didn’t even look at the score… we should’ve gone for three and that’s on me. I screwed up.”

The Bulldogs picked up where they left off from Thursday night’s victory over the Broncos, going on a 9-point scoring streak to open the game, with Utti recording 5 points.

Utti bounced back nicely from Thursday’s game, where she only scored 5 points. Saturday afternoon, she led the team with 20 points and shot 75% from the field. 

“I knew coming into today that they were going to play as hard as I can,” Utti said. “I knew what I needed to do to help the team win. That’s what I did to prepare myself, say that I needed to be more aggressive and help the team win.”

Fresno State’s field goal and 3-point percentage dropped from Thursday’s game, which was a factor in the outcome of this contest. Fresno State shot 45.8% from the field, almost 6% lower than Thursday’s game, and their 3-point percentage dropped from 52.6% on Thursday night to 29.4% on Saturday.

By the numbers, Boise State’s slump from Thursday night only got worse this afternoon. The Broncos struggled shooting the ball, making only 38.6% of their shots from the field and only 18.8% from 3-point range. But the Broncos took advantage of the Bulldogs’ turnovers, scoring 19 points off 14 turnovers.

Bree Delaney has stepped up coming off the bench. In the third quarter, she nailed a 3-point shot that started a Fresno State scoring drive where they took over the lead. Last game, in 12 minutes she recorded 12 points.

“She had lots of confidence coming in, and we had a lot of confidence in her” White said. “Bree hit her corner shot which I think is her best shot.”

The Bulldogs will get to rest on Sunday before shifting over for a short two-day practice week. Fresno State will travel to Texas to play New Mexico — who they share first place with. The Lobos have relocated to West Texas A&M University due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state of New Mexico. 

“We’re feeling really good,” Haley Cavinder said. “We had some unfinished business. We didn’t just want to win one game, we wanted two.”

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