Fresno State uses late run to defeat New Mexico, splitting series with Lobos

Haley Cavinder (1) brings the ball up the court against the New Mexico Lobos on Jan. 28, 2021, at the First United Bank Center. (Credit: Fresno State Athletics)

New Mexico guard LaTora Duff was just trying to get her inbounds pass over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-3 Brooke Walling. Instead, she passed it directly to Maddi Utti.

Utti handed it off to Haley Cavinder, who took a dribble, and lasered a pass upcourt to her twin sister Hanna for a wide-open layup.  

That sequence kicked off a 22-2 run for the Fresno State Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, turning a close 6-point game into a rout for the Bulldogs, who left Canyon, Texas, with a 91-69 victory over the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday.

With the win, Fresno State (9-6, 7-3 MW) moves into second place in the Mountain West (MW) standings, pushing New Mexico (7-2, 4-2 MW) to third based on winning percentage. 

More importantly for Fresno State head coach Jaime White, the Bulldogs earned a series split after they fell 82-80 to the Lobos Thursday night.

“You want to beat everybody at least once.. our kids didn’t feel like we played the way we could [Thursday],” White said. “Really good to see your efforts on that day off pay off. The other thing is, to beat New Mexico as where they stand right now, keeps us in that top slot.”

Haley Cavinder showcased her all-around game Saturday with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists, leading the team in all three categories. Hanna Cavinder and Utti also scored in double figures, with 13 and 12 points respectively.

Bree Delaney had her best game of the season, putting up 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting. She only scored 3 points in each of her last two games.

On Saturday afternoon, she knocked down four 3-pointers.

“It’s kind of weird, I always felt I can shoot better when there’s someone in front of me,” Delaney said. “When you’re too open, it’s not as fun because there’s more pressure I feel like.”

“When the first one goes in, it’s all good days.”

Delaney’s quote applied well to the Bulldogs’ first possession of the game. Haley Cavinder dribbled to her left, crossed over to the right and pulled up from mid-range with New Mexico guard Ahlise Hurst giving plenty of space. 

The shot hit nothing but net, signaling a productive first half for the Bulldogs’ offense. Defenders like Hurst gave Fresno State shooters lots of space and allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 50% from the field and 35% from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.

A big part of this was the Lobos’ focus on limiting drives inside the paint. Their defense collapsed to keep Cavinder and Gamez from getting to the rim, which opened up wide-open 3-pointers for outside shooters like Delaney and Kendyll Kinzer.

Kinzer and Delaney each hit a wide-open 3-pointer in the first quarter, but Fresno State faced an equally potent offense in New Mexico.

New Mexico went on a 7-0 run fueled by a fast break layup by forward Antonia Anderson, a drive to the basket by Duff and a quick 3-pointer by Hurst.

The Lobos’ run gave them a 12-7 lead with 4:46 to go in the first quarter. New Mexico led for most of the opening quarter. The lead shifted when Delaney stole a pass from Lobos forward Autumn Watts and threw it to Gamez on the fast break.

The senior guard went behind the back, pump faked and finished with a right-handed layup. Fresno State took a 19-18 lead with 1:05 left in the first quarter and would never trail again, making 5-of-7 field goals to end the quarter.

“We kind of set the tone in the first quarter,” White said. “Although it was kind of close, we liked the tone that we set.”

The Bulldogs rode their momentum into the first play of the second quarter. Utti spun around and tossed the ball toward Delaney on the left wing, who hoisted a 3-pointer over Hurst, off the backboard and in, making it a 24-20 lead for Fresno State.

The ball kept coming to Delaney in the second quarter, and the Australian sharpshooter shot 2-for-3 from the field during the period.

Later in the second, Delaney grabbed the offensive rebound to keep the possession alive, then rolled out to receive a pass from Hanna Cavinder. Delaney took one step forward, pulled up from the free throw line and sank it.

“My teammates were amazing in getting me open shots so that obviously helps,” Delaney said. “The flow was just open and feeling good, I guess.”

The offensive flow never escaped the Bulldogs. White said postgame that Fresno State learned from Thursday’s defeat to make the extra pass, and the team responded by piling up 20 assists on Saturday.

In one play during the second quarter, Haley Cavinder passed it inside to Brooke Walling, who spun to her left, went up for a fadeaway lefty hook that hung in the air an extra second and dropped in. 

The next Fresno State possession, after Anderson reached over Haley Cavinder for the putback, Cavinder responded by pushing the ball upcourt and swinging it to Kinzer who pulled up for 3 and drained it.

All of that in six seconds.

The fast-paced Bulldogs led 40-36 at halftime, but New Mexico never let Fresno State lead by more than five in the third quarter. The Lobos cut the lead down to one and held possession with 3:20 left in the third quarter, but Utti stepped in front of New Mexico guard Latascya Duff’s pass and took it all the way to the other end before she was fouled. 

That was as close New Mexico got to taking the lead near the end of the third. Fresno State took over in the fourth.

“I thought our defense picked up [during the 22-2 run],” White said. “We trapped a little bit more, we had Maddi on top with her length and intensity defensively… with our speed and wings out on the perimeter, they were able to get down in transition and that transition helped us extend that lead.”

Delaney, Kinzer and Haley Cavinder all hit 3-pointers during the Bulldogs’ 22-2 run. Fresno State shot 42.3% (11-for-26) from beyond the arc Saturday.

Delaney and Kinzer (9 points) were part of a Fresno State bench that scored 38 points, while New Mexico only got 18 points from its bench.

Up next for the Fresno State Bulldogs is another road trip, this time to Logan, Utah, to take on the Utah State Aggies.

Previous Story Fresno State celebrates African American poetry through 'Lift Every Voice' article thumbnail mt-3

Fresno State celebrates African American poetry through 'Lift Every Voice'

Next Story Junior Ballard leads Fresno State as they sweep New Mexico in season series article thumbnail mt-3

Junior Ballard leads Fresno State as they sweep New Mexico in season series