Late Surge Keeps Fresno State Undefeated All Time in MW Tournament Play

 

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By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com

 

LAS VEGAS - Fresno State came into the 2015 Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship undefeated in MW Tournament play.

 

Tuesday night the third-seed Bulldogs (22-8) showed why they're still the big dogs in the postseason, as they used a 14-0 second-half run to pull away for a 74-66 quarterfinal win over No. 6 seed Wyoming (16-14).

 

Fresno State, which improved to 7-0 all time in the MW Tournament, will face second-seeded New Mexico in Wednesday night's 8:30 p.m. semifinal at the Thomas and Mack Center.

 

"We want to win because our goals are big," Fresno State first-year coach Jaime White said. "As much as the tradition is what it is at Fresno State, this is a special team. I wasn't here obviously in the past years, but this team really wants to win. They've really come together in multiple ways.

 

"We have players that haven't played a lot, haven't been in these games a lot, so we're leaning on some of those older players. But those players that are younger are excited to be here and glad that they're getting those opportunities."

 

Down 53-50 after Wyoming guard Kaitlyn Mileto drained a 3-pointer in front of her bench with 6:57 left in the game, Fresno State held the Cowgirls scoreless over the next 5:57, while opening up a 64-53 lead on the strength of an eight-point burst from reserve Moriah Faulk.

 

"I just wanted to do whatever my team needed me to do," Faulk said. "I came in the game and followed the game plan. I wanted to get the win for my team. Whatever I had to do I was willing to do."

 

Amidst the Bulldogs' late-game run, with the game tied at 53, Wyoming leader Marquelle Dent was called for a charge with 4:06 left in the game, and it seemingly fueled Fresno State's momentum.

 

"When she got that charge, I think that really showed that we can stop her (and) turn around and come back on the offensive end," White said. "Then Mo (Faulk) attacking the basket, they were in zone at the time, I thought Mo did a great job attacking the basket and getting some rebounds."

 

Following Dent's charge, Faulk hit a lay-up to put the Bulldogs ahead 55-53, and moments later, the 5-foot-10 junior grabbed a key offensive rebound and scored on put-back layup to give Fresno State a four-point edge. During their near six-minute drought, the Cowgirls were 0 of 7 from the field.

 

"Whether it's a charge, block, there's plays like that all the time," Wyoming coach Joe Legerski said. "But as we look at it, one of the things we always talk about is there are plays in any basketball game where you have to step up and make the play. I thought that was the difference in the basketball game tonight.

 

"There's a lot of things down the stretch, Fresno making extra plays."

 

The Bulldogs' bench outscored Wyoming 26-0, marking the only time this season the Cowgirls' reserves were scoreless.

 

Fresno State had five players score in double figures, led by co-Player of the Year Alex Sheedy's 19 points and 11 rebounds. It was Sheedy's sixth double-double this season. Faulk, who connected on 5 of 9 field goals in the second half, scored all of her 16 points in the second half. Alex Furr added 15, while Shauqunna Collins and Raven Fox each had 10.

 

Wyoming was led by Dent, who poured in 26 points, while Mileto and Jordan Sibrel each had 12 and Jordan Kelley recorded her career- and season-high sixth double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG