Fresno State women win Mountain West title
LAS VEGAS (AP) Fresno State is perfect in Mountain West Conference tournament action.
Fresno State got 26 points from Bree Farley and improved to 6-0 all-time in Mountain West tournament play after beating top-seeded Colorado State, 77-68, in the conference championship Saturday night.
The Bulldogs won the championship for the second time in its two years in the conference and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Fresno State will be making its seventh consecutive trip to the tournament.
The Bulldogs (22-10), the conference's second seed, opened the second half on a 15-8 run to extend their lead to 51-39 lead with 11:50 left, and then fought off Colorado State's rally that saw the Rams close the gap by scoring 12 of the game's next 17 points. Colorado State got as close as five, with 5:25 left, but it wasn't enough.
''I think (tournament experience) does help a lot, especially when teams go on runs,'' Farley said. ''If you're not experienced, you can get really frazzled in that type of situation. Us being more experienced, we learned to accept the runs and not freak out, if that makes sense. It definitely did help us today.''
Taylor Thompson, who added 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, was named tournament MVP after averaging 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. The 5-foot-5 guard knocked five 3-pointers in the title game.
''We definitely came into this tournament knowing what we needed to do,'' Thompson said. ''We came in confident tonight. We knew that we needed to hit. I mean, we did a great job getting people open. I felt like we had a lot of open shots, and that has to go for our people penetrating. So we did a great job just all around team effort of doing that.''
Thompson has been a part of a Fresno State program that has won four consecutive conference championships, including two in the Western Athletic Conference prior to joining the Mountain West.
''Each team is different,'' Thompson said. ''We lost some great players going into this year ... our team and our coaches did an excellent job just throughout the year of overcoming adversity, working together, getting over humps.''
Gritt Ryder scored 18 points to lead the Rams (25-7), while Ellen Nystrom had a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with her six points.
Leading 56-51, Fresno State got a 3-pointer from Robin Draper, a driving, left-handed lay-up from Thompson and short jumper from Jacinta Vandenberg to push the lead back to double digits - 63-51 - with 2:39 left. The teams, which split the regular season series, continued to trade baskets down the stretch, as the Rams never got closer than six points. Fresno State closed the final 2:04 of the game by hitting 14 of 21 free throws. The Bulldogs hit 21 of 28 from the charity stripe the entire game.
Thompson, the league's co-defensive player of the year, led the Bulldogs' defensive prowess, which limited the Rams to just 32.4 percent shooting from the floor, including 4 for 28 (.143) from 3-point range. Fresno State also outrebounded the Rams, 43-38.
''This obviously isn't the way we wanted our season to end,'' Colorado State coach Ryun Williams said. ''Our kids have done such a tremendous job of competing and winning all season long. Tonight we just didn't make enough basketball plays. The big thing is this game stinks, it stinks to lose this game.''
It was clear from the start the Bulldogs were on a mission, as they jumped out to an 8-1 lead. Colorado State battled back, closing the gap to 10-9 with 13:32 left in the first half, but every time the Rams got close, Fresno State would make a run of its own.
''We've talked a lot about this season, just an IQ with the game that I like our team to understand and not fear runs, know that we're going to go on runs,'' Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley said. ''The system that we play does create runs. There are very good teams in our conference, and very good teams will go on their own runs. You can't be surprised when that happens because they are a good team.''
The Bulldogs followed CSU's spurt with an 11-2 run capped by back-to-back jumpers by Farley, one from inside the arc, and one from behind it. The Bulldogs kept their distance by trading baskets with Colorado State down the stretch before the Rams scored the half's last two buckets to cut their deficit to four, 30-26.
''They knew when to step up and they did that today,'' Ryder said. ''I don't know if it comes from being used to being in a tournament or if they had a really good day. I just felt like every time we got a momentum, they would hit a three. That's all I remember from the game. Credit to them. They stepped up when they needed to.''
Thompson, Farley and Ryder were named to the all-tournament team, and were joined by Colorado State's Elin Gustavson and Wyoming's Kayla Woodward.