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Mountain West WBB Tournament – Semi-Finals Recap

Photos by Ryan Schmitt, Rocky Mountain Collegian


Fresno State – San Jose State

The Fresno State Bulldogs took on the San Jose State Spartans on Tuesday night.

Previously, Fresno State has struggled against the Spartans with one game this season going to overtime and the most recent match-up was only a two point difference. Needless to say, this was a highly anticipated game.

Early on, San Jose State showed a 2-3 zone defense. Maddi Utti of Fresno State and Mountain West player of the year tore apart that zone by registering 16 points in the first half.

The Bulldogs began the game on fire by winning the first quarter 28-11. Haley Cavinder and Fieme’A Hafoka also contributed to setting the tone.

Tyra Whitehead led the way for the Spartans early as she knocked down a couple of free throws and a layup as she tried to keep her team in the ballgame.

A closer contested second quarter can be contributed to both teams playing suffocating zone defenses. San Jose State switched into a 1-3-1 match-up zone defense while the Bulldogs showed a trap-heavy 2-3 zone defense.

It was nearly impossible to stop the Bulldogs in the first half as they shot the three at a 55% clip through the first quarter. In contrast, the Spartans shot just 14% from the same distance.

One point of emphasis for the Bulldogs was slowing down Mountain West All-Conference Sophomore guard Ayziana Basallo as she was held without a field goal until 5:00 minutes left in the game.

Coming out of the half, the Bulldogs continued to dominate. Junior Guard Aly Gamez of Fresno State hit a pair of jump shots to extend the lead to 21 points for the Bulldogs early in the third quarter.

Gamez knocked down a fastbreak layup early in the fourth to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 31 points. Even with nine minutes to go in the quarter, the layup felt like a dagger as the San Jose State fans began to pile out of Thomas and Mack Arena.

The final score of the game was Fresno State 94 – San Jose State 68. San Jose State was picked to finish last in the conference by the Mountain West media, so reaching the semifinals was a major accomplishment for this ball club.

Fresno State will move on to the championship game Wednesday night. The last time the Bulldogs were in the game was in 2017 against Boise State, a team that took the court shortly after them to face-off against the Wyoming Cowgirls.

Boise State – Wyoming

The two versus three seed match-up was everything as advertised. Wyoming’s All-Conference guard Tereza Vitulova scored the first four points of the game for the Cowgirls.

As the game went on, Boise State as a unit shot the ball tremendously from deep in the second quarter knocking down 5 of 7. Wyoming didn’t register a single three the entire first half which was a major reason as to why they found themselves down early.

Boise State’s tandem of A’Shanti Coleman and Riley Lupfer led the way early on for the Broncos putting up 12 and six points, respectively.

Jayde Christopher for the Broncos played one of the most complete games of the tournament, registering two points, four rebounds and four assists in the early portion of the game. Christopher would go on to attain her fifth double-double (10 rebounds and 10 assists) of the year but this was her first time achieving that statistic without scoring in double digits.

Boise State’s Head Coach Gordy Presnel gave a brief strategy for the team’s approach for Wednesday’s game.

“We’ve got to stay in front of them and keep them from getting to the line,” said Presnel.

The Broncos would go on to win the game 79 – 71 to survive and advance to the championship game for the program’s fourth time in a row, playing Fresno State.

When the two opponents saw each other last in January, the game was a five point road victory for Fresno State. The victory was Fresno State’s first time winning in Idaho since 2014.

Tip-off for tomorrow’s championship game is set for 8:00 p.m. with a chance to advance and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.