LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Battling through the third game in 18 days against the same opponent, seventh-seeded Utah State women’s basketball’s run through the 2016 Mountain West Championship came to an end Tuesday night, in a 55-47 loss to No. 2 Fresno State.
Sophomore guard Funda Nakkasoglu led the Aggies with 16 points on the night, the only USU player to reach double figures. Freshman guard Katie Toole had a team-best 10 rebounds, adding four points. Redshirt sophomore Bego Faz Davalos was tops for the Bulldogs with her 13th double-double of the season, tallying 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Utah State’s season comes to an end with the loss, as the Aggies conclude the year with a 14-17 overall record, going 8-10 in Mountain West play. With the win, Fresno State improves to 20-10 on the year, advancing to the tournament semifinals.
Nakkasoglu was first on either team to score Tuesday, but the Bulldogs responded with seven straight points. Despite four blocks from freshman center Deja Mason, the Aggies were unable to capitalize on the defensive opportunities and were held scoreless for more than three minutes. A pair of free throws from Mason ended the scoring skid for USU, but the advantage was in Fresno State’s favor, up 13-9 at the end of the quarter.
As the second quarter got underway, senior forward Julianne Anchling drained a perfect 3-point shot to cut the lead to one, followed by another trey from freshman guard Rachel Brewster to take the lead. The teams went on to battle back-and-forth through the remainder of the half, trading shots as well as turnovers. Fresno State found a shooting streak as it made six straight field goal attempts, taking the lead back at the media timeout. A shot from senior forward Tijana Djukic tied the score once again, but the Bulldogs responded with a 3-point shot, taking the 28-25 lead into the locker room.
The Aggies came out hot in the second half, netting back-to-back baskets from Mason to take the lead once again. A trey from Nakkasoglu extend USU’s lead, as the Aggie defense held the Bulldogs without a bucket for the first 5:24 of the half. Over the first half of the quarter, Utah State went on a 13-4 scoring run, but roles reversed in the final minutes, when the team’s only point came from a single free throw from sophomore center Hannah Hutchins. Despite the slump, the Aggies held on to the lead to end the quarter up, 39-38.
The back-and-forth of the game only picked up in the fourth quarter, as both teams fought through the final minutes. Fresno State took the lead back at the 5:47 mark on an old fashioned 3-point play. Scoring then slowed down drastically, as neither team scored for nearly four minutes. Turnovers plagued the Aggies’ possession, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to capitalize on the miscues. As Mason fouled out, Faz Davalos ended the scoring skid for Fresno State, going 1-of-2 at the line. With less than a minute to go, Hutchins hit one free throw, the first USU points since the 7:17 mark of the quarter. The last minute was all about free throws on both ends, but Fresno State secured the win.
Overall, Utah State shot 30.2 percent (16-of-53) from the field, 26.7 percent (4-of-15) from the 3-point line and 78.6 percent (11-of-14) from the free throw line. Fresno State shot 31.7 percent (20-of-63) from the field, 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from behind the arc and 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from the free throw line.
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