The last time these two teams met, there was heartbreak in Vegas. A controversial timeout call sent the Fresno State Bulldogs home without the 2020 Mountain West women’s basketball championship.
So when the Bulldogs and Broncos met for the first time in 2021, it was certain there would be some fireworks.
“We took it personally… whenever those two teams play, it’s going to be aggressive,” Hanna Cavinder said.
The Fresno State women’s basketball team (7-5, 5-2 MW) displayed offensive firepower in its 92-57 rout of the Mountain West-leading Boise State Broncos (8-2, 5-2 MW) on Thursday night.
It was redemption for Fresno State’s 80-76 overtime loss to Boise State in the Mountain West women’s basketball title game last March. Lots of Bulldogs, including head coach Jaime White, approached Thursday’s game with an extra bit of motivation.
“We have had a bad taste in our mouth, pretty hard to watch that game, the championship game, and we had to watch it because we had to scout,” White added. “I do think our kids had a lot of Bulldog pride and wanted to show that we are back… I thought our kids really rang the bell a little bit.”
The Broncos entered the contest atop of the Mountain West standings.
But not anymore after they ran into Fresno State’s shooters. Fresno State shot 52.6% (10-for-19) from 3-point range for the entire game and 51.4% (38-for-74) from the field.
Hanna Cavinder led all scorers with 19 points to go along with 8 assists. Her twin sister Haley Cavinder added 15 points and 9 rebounds, and Bree Delaney chipped in a season-high 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from downtown. All but two Bulldogs scored in a game where Fresno State prioritized sharing the basketball and let the scoring come naturally.
“They made us really move the ball, and you can see moving the ball is really the answer,” White said. “They feel a lot more comfortable moving the ball, they’re set and ready to shoot, and then it opens up for drives to attack their post players.”
Fresno State attacked Boise State’s 2-3 zone defense with deft passing early, which opened up easy shots in the lane and open shots from downtown. The Bulldogs racked up eight assists in the first quarter alone and shot 7-for-9 from the field in one stretch.
The Bulldogs led 23-13 after the opening quarter, but the Broncos’ defense slowed down the ‘Dogs’ offense in the second quarter. Opposite from its first quarter, Fresno State started the second quarter shooting 1-for-10 from the field and could not move the ball around the Broncos’ length.
Boise State couldn’t find a groove either in the first half, shooting 39% from the field and 1-for-7 from downtown. Jade Loville, the Broncos’ top scorer and the conference’s third leading scorer, shot 0-for-9 in the first half.
The Broncos kept their deficit at single digits headed into halftime, 36-29, but the Bulldogs moved past their shooting woes.
Fresno State regained its shooting stroke coming out of halftime, launching a 20-4 run that put the game out of reach for Boise State. The Bulldogs made the extra pass much like they did in the first quarter, finding shooters on the perimeter open. As a result, the ‘Dogs shot 5-for-7 from 3-point range in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs also kept the Broncos’ Loville — who helped lead Boise State with 20 points in last year’s Mountain West title game — to 2 points on 1-for-11 shooting. In the game, Boise State shot 35% (24-for-69) from the field and 15% (3-for-15) from 3-point range.
With the outcome near certain during the fourth quarter, the door was open for Aunjona James — the San Joaquin Memorial product who missed last year due to a knee injury — to run the floor and score her first points as a Bulldog. James finished with a layup that got her teammates excited.
“It was kind of a great moment. She’s so talented and so explosive at times, and she can handle the ball, but you saw she can pass the ball,” White said. “When you have an injury, sometimes it takes a long time to come back from it… even though she hasn’t gotten in games, she’s been in practice and she’s going hard and you can see her confidence growing every day.”
The Bulldogs ran the floor and spread the ball around with ease through much of the second half, putting last year’s title game in the rearview mirror. Now they look down the road to Saturday at 2 p.m., when Boise State returns to the Save Mart Center to stave off the series sweep.