Fresno State went on a stunning 23-point run to take a 22-point second-half lead — and had to hold on to win.
But hold on the second-seeded Bulldogs did, emerging with a 76-70 victory over top-seeded San Diego State on Saturday to win the Mountain West women’s basketball tournament.
Fresno State (24-8) clinched the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament before a crowd of 2,123 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Bulldogs, who won the Western Athletic Conference tournament four of the past five seasons, will make their sixth trip in a row to the NCAAs.
“I think San Diego State, top to bottom, probably has better talent than we do,” Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley said. “So we had to find ways, and the girls had to believe in themselves, and that’s absolutely, I think, how we won this game.”
For San Diego State (26-6), the Aztecs must wait until Monday to learn if they will receive an at-large bid. They are 46th in the Ratings Percentage Index, so San Diego State’s hopes of making the tournament for the fourth time in five years don’t appear promising.
Fresno State ended the Aztecs’ 17-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs threatened to blow the Aztecs off the court by turning a 34-33 deficit with 2:14 left in the first half into a 56-34 lead over a nearly six-minute stretch.
San Diego State, though, rallied to within a basket when Mojave High School graduate Chelsea Hopkins found Chairese Culberson for a layup with 1:13 remaining to make the score 71-69.
But then Hopkins fouled Fresno State’s Alex Sheedy, who was taking a 3-pointer. Sheedy made all three free throws with 49.5 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 74-69 and put the Bulldogs in position to accept the championship trophy.
Ki-Ki Moore, named the tournament Most Valuable Player, finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead four Fresno State players in double-figure scoring. Sheedy had 21 points.
Hopkins and Courtney Clements each scored 15 points for San Diego State, with Hopkins grabbing 15 rebounds.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.