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#AztecWBB Falls to Fresno State, 67-63

Desi Culberson was one of four Aztecs to score in double figures vs. Fresno State on Saturday.
Desi Culberson was one of four Aztecs to score in double figures vs. Fresno State on Saturday.

March 1, 2014

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SAN DIEGO - The injury-riddled San Diego State women's basketball team built a 10-point lead in the first half against one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West on Saturday, but could not make it stand up, as visiting Fresno State rallied for a 67-63 victory at Viejas Arena.

Despite receiving double-digit point totals from four players for the 10th time this season, the Aztecs (11-15, 8-8 MW) could not withstand a timely second-half run by the Bulldogs (18-10, 12-5 MW), who captured their fourth game in a row and sixth in their last eight decisions to maintain their hold on second place in the conference race.

SDSU outscored Fresno State 36-28 in the paint; however, the Bulldogs maintained a slim 36-34 rebounding advantage, limiting the Scarlet and Black to just three offensive boards after intermission.

The Aztecs were also unable to capitalize on their opportunities at the free-throw line, connecting on just 14 of 22 foul shots, including a crucial 1-for-6 stretch past the midway point of the second half. In addition, the SDSU lost for only the second time this season when committing fewer turnovers than the opposition after posting just 11 miscues on Saturday, compared to Fresno State's 15.

Individually, SDSU senior Cierra Warren (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while fellow classmate Danesha Long (Long Beach, Calif.) finished with 10 points, along with juniors Chairese Culberson (Oakland, Calif.) and Khristina Hunter (Fairfield, Calif.), who just missed out on a double-double, tying for game-high honors with nine rebounds to go with three assists and three steals.

As a team, the Aztecs shot 40 percent from the field (24-60), including a 48-percent clip in the second half (13-27), but were just 1-for-8 from three-point territory. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs posted similar numbers, draining 43 percent of their shots from the floor (22-51). However, the visitors buried five treys on the afternoon, enduring a string of 11 straight misfires from beyond the arc.

Clinging to a slim 12-11 advantage at the 9:48 mark of the first half, SDSU engineered a 17-8 run over the next seven minutes, capped by a Long jumper, to provide the host school its largest lead of the game at 29-19. However, Fresno State responded with seven straight points, including a pair of baskets by Bree Farley, while the Aztecs were held scoreless for the remainder of the half. SDSU missed its final four field goals of the period and turned the ball over three times, allowing the Bulldogs to trim the deficit to 29-26.

Following the break, the Aztecs seemed poised to re-establish their presence in the middle as Warren scored her team's first six points, giving the Scarlet and Black a 35-27 cushion with two-and-a-half minutes elapsed in the half. Shortly thereafter, freshman Chloe Johnson (Phoenix, Ariz.) and sophomore Deajanae Scurry (Los Angeles, Calif.) each made nifty moves in the lane for easy baskets on consecutive possessions, sandwiched around a jumper by Fresno State's Alex Sheedy.

With a 39-32 lead in its grasp at the 15-minute mark, SDSU had a golden opportunity to add to its advantage; however, two misfires from the perimeter, along with a turnover, threw a wrench into those plans. Instead, it was the Bulldogs who seized the moment with an 11-2 blitz over the next four-plus minutes that changed the entire complexion of the game. Farley, Taylor Thompson and Moriah Faulk each connected from three-point range to highlight the run, putting Fresno State up 43-41 for its first lead since a 5-4 spread in the first half.

The two sides exchanged leads over the ensuing 2:29 before Long and Warren converted back-to-back layups to give the Aztecs a 48-45 edge with 8:21 remaining. However, Sheedy quickly buried a three-pointer, while SDSU missed four crucial free throws on its next two trips down the floor. Moments later, Raven Fox hit jumper to put the Bulldogs in front to stay 50-48 with 7:06 left.

Fresno State kept the Aztecs at bay for the remainder of the contest, sinking 10 of 13 free throws over the next 6:19 to help build a 10-point bulge at 66-56 with just 25 seconds to go. SDSU fashioned a late 7-1 spurt, punctuated by two Hunter foul shots, but that proved too little too late.

Farley led the Bulldogs with 16 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including a 2-for-2 effort from 3-point range, while Sheedy (12 points) and Faulk (10 points) reached double figures. In addition, Thompson posted nine points and nine rebounds to go with a game-high nine assists.

San Diego State will close out the home portion of its regular-season schedule on Tuesday, March 4, when it plays host to UNLV at 6 p.m. PT. Prior to tip-off, the Aztecs will honor their own Cierra Warren and Danesha Long as part of Senior Night festivities at Viejas Arena.