Fresno St. 76, San Diego St. 70
LAS VEGAS (AP)
Even after scoring 23 straight points, Fresno State didn't feel safe.
And the Bulldogs weren't - not against a San Diego State team that had won 17 straight games and beaten them twice already this season.
But Fresno State maintained its composure and held on for a 76-70 victory Saturday in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
''We needed to keep our composure because we knew San Diego State is a great team; they were going to come out hard,'' Fresno State forward Rosie Moult said. ''We had to make sure we were still being tough and physical on defense, and creating shots on offense, and we did that well.''
Fresno State (24-8), in its first season in the Mountain West, has won its conference tournament championship five of the last six seasons and advances to its sixth straight NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs' 23-0 run overlapped the halftime break. They 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.
Alex Sheedy scored 11 points during the run and finished with 21 for Fresno State. Ki-Ki Moore led the Bulldogs with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Moult added 14 points and Bree Farley had 13.
Chelsea Hopkins had 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to lead San Diego State (26-6). Courtney Clements also scored 15.
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.
''Hats off to them, their whole team,'' Fresno State coach Raegan 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.''
Moore said rebounding and defense were the keys to holding off San Diego State.
''I think we took away some of their second shots. At the beginning they were getting a lot of second chances,'' Moore said. ''We just played good on-ball defense. We knew who was going to take the shots, who they were going to pass the ball to. We played hard defense, one on one, switches, made them take a tough shot.''
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.
Sheedy started the Bulldogs' 23-0 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.
''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. And we just, out of the gate, even though we had a lead, it was very much not San Diego State basketball. It was more Fresno basketball, matching baskets up and down the floor.''
The Aztecs won both regular-season games against Fresno State, including a 74-49 victory on Feb. 9.