Fresno State upsets New Mexico en route to finals appearance

Bailey Bassett

[smartslider3 slider=”90″]

LAS VEGAS — Two sets of twins, two teams and one chance to move onto the championship game in the Air Force Reserve Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship set the stage for the first quarterfinal of the day.

Haley and Hanna Cavinder bested LaTascya and LaTora Duff in the semifinals of the women’s bracket as fourth-seeded California State University, Fresno handed the number one seeded University of New Mexico a 77-72 loss.

The Cavinder twins combined for 35 points, clearly showcasing the benefit of playing together for years and the great chemistry the sisters have built. They had multiple assists to each other, including a few dribble handoffs when one sister would pass while simultaneously screening for the other in order to create space for a jump shot. 


The duo also demonstrated numerous instances of great playmaking. Haley Cavinder had four assists while Hanna Cavinder had a team-high seven. On numerous occasions, either guard would thread the needle with bullet entry passes to cutting Bulldogs who then had easy attempts at a layup. They used creative angles on their passes as well, as no-look feeds ensured their assists went undeterred.

Finishing the game with 17 turnovers, the Bulldogs almost fell victim to their own blunders. Back-to-back New Mexico steals gave the Lobos some momentum early in the third quarter. However, whatever missteps poor ball-handling caused, Fresno State more than made up for it with some late-game defensive composure. Ultimately, the more timely steals were performed by Fresno State.

Hanna Cavinder had two steals late in the final quarter, and in a battle that went down to the final possessions, it was this type of stifling defense by the Bulldogs that gave them the slight edge. Their 2-3 zone defense prevented many clean looks from the Lobos.

In a shootout that went right down to the wire, both teams were trading baskets in the fourth. The final quarter of play rarely saw the score differential at more than three points. New Mexico’s Jaedyn De La Cerda was a large reason as to why this game never got out of reach for the Lobos due to her five 3-pointers en route to a team-high 23 points.

Unfortunately for the Lobos, De La Cerda was not able to convert a would-be game-tying deep ball in the closing seconds of the game. Haley Cavinder sealed the game for the Bulldogs with two free throws to give Fresno State the five-point victory.

Even with the dominant performance by the Cavinders, this game was much more than just the twins’ show. Maddi Utti certainly won the battle of fatigue as she finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, all while playing all 40 minutes of the game. Aly Gamez added 14 points, and Wytalla Motta’s hustle and slashing ability was rewarded as she was the recipient of many Cavinder passes to the inside that led to open layups.

Now the favorites in the championship game due to seeding, Fresno State will face the winner between sixth-seed Boise State University and seventh-seed University of Wyoming. If Fresno State head coach Jaime White‘s post-game thoughts are anything to go by, the Bulldogs are more than ready for whatever matchup comes their way. 

“It’s best if we don’t worry about who we play,” White said. “Whoever is worthy, whoever wins the game — we will play them.” 

Bailey Bassett can be reached or on Twitter @baileybassett_.