Published January 13, 2015
San Diego State wasn't playing its usual game, and that's why the Aztecs suffered an unusual outcome.
The Aztecs had their 17-game winning streak snapped as they fell behind by 22 points and couldn't come all the way back in a 76-70 loss to Fresno State in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Saturday.
"We picked a bad time to have a bad time," San Diego State coach Beth Burns said. "I think Fresno State had an awful lot to do with that.
"We're very much a physical rep team. We work really hard to try to do things the way we want to do them. ... It was very much not San Diego State basketball. It was more Fresno basketball, matching baskets up and down the floor."
Ki-Ki Moore had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Fresno State (24-8), which advances to its sixth straight NCAA tournament. Alex Sheedy added 21 points, Rosie Moult had 14 and Bree Farley 13.
Chelsea Hopkins had 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to lead San Diego State (26-6). Courtney Clements also scored 15.
San Diego State fell behind when the Bulldogs scored 23 straight points overlapping the halftime break. Fresno State trailed 34-33 with about two minutes left in the first half, but scored 12 straight before the intermission and opened the second half with an 11-0 run to go on top 56-34 with 16:25 remaining.
"We usually start and finish halves really well. That's been a trademark of our team," Burns said. "And obviously what happened to us at the end of the first half, which was just an end result of our lack of defensive composure the majority of the half, really hurt us."
Sheedy started the Bulldogs' run with eight straight points on two 3-pointers and two free throws. Fresno State added two more baskets in the final three seconds of the half when Farley hit a basket and Taylor Thompson followed with a steal and a score at the buzzer.
The Aztecs weren't finished after the Bulldogs' outburst, as they responded with an 18-4 run of their own to pull within 60-52 with 10:44 left. Clements had nine points during that spurt.
San Diego State got within 71-69 on Chairese Culberson's basket with 1:08 left. But Sheedy made three free throws with 49 seconds remaining after being fouled while attempting a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to five.
Moore added two more free throws with 9 seconds left to give Fresno State a 76-70 lead and seal the outcome. Moore made 10 of 11 free throws in the game while the Bulldogs made good on 17 of 18 attempts.
"It is disappointing that we lost, but I think we can be proud of the fact that we fought back," Clements said. "We didn't give up. We did everything that we felt that we could to try to get back in the game. We didn't just let them just win the game outright by 20."
San Diego State beat Fresno State twice during the regular season, including a 74-49 victory on Feb. 9. Hopkins said she hopes the NCAA selection committee factors that into its decisions.
"Fresno State was excellent tonight," Hopkins said. "They made more plays, that's why they ended up winning the game. ... Third time playing Fresno, we've done great up until this point. I think the NCAA should take that into account."
Fresno hit 9 of 22 3-point attempts and turned the ball over just six times, which helped them overcome a 43-31 rebounding disadvantage.
Bulldogs coach Raegan Pebley was grateful the Bulldogs pulled out a win in their third try against San Diego State.
"Hats off to them, their whole team," Pebley said of the Aztecs. "Their posts beat us down the floor tonight. They had a point guard that could hit crazy 3s. They have an incredible shooter in Courtney Clements. They were so hard to beat and we couldn't put them away. They're a great team, and great teams don't get put away."