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Thompson Helps Fresno State Hold Off Liberty
Fresno State senior guard Taylor Thompson led all players in points, rebounds, assists and steals Friday afternoon, helping the Bulldogs post a 70-66 win over Liberty in the opening game of the Seton Hall Thanksgiving Classic at Walsh Gymnasium.
Sparked by Reagan Miller's 12 second-half points, Liberty whittled a 14-point second-half deficit to two. However, the Lady Flames could not complete the comeback and dropped to 1-5 on the season. Liberty will face Savannah State (3-4) in Saturday's consolation game at noon.
Thompson, who stands at just 5-5, tallied 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals for defending Mountain West champion Fresno State, which is now 3-2. The Bulldogs will play host Seton Hall (5-1) in the tournament championship game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Liberty got off to a fast start, as an Ashley Rininger hoop and an Emily Frazier triple gave the Lady Flames a 5-0 lead within the first 1:02 of the game.
Three-point shooting highlighted Fresno State's ensuing 10-3 run. The surge featured three triples, including a connection by Thompson at 15:19 which gave the red-clad Bulldogs a 10-8 advantage.
The Fresno State three-point shooting barrage continued, enabling the Bulldogs to gradually increase their advantage. By the time Fresno State took its first double-digit lead (32-22) 4:15 before halftime, the Bulldogs had already made eight triples.
Liberty held Fresno State without a triple for the rest of the opening period, enabling the Lady Flames to slice their deficit in half. The Bulldogs took a 36-31 edge into the intermission.
Liberty shot 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from the field in the first half, as compared to 40 percent (12-of-30) for Fresno State. But the Bulldogs' three-point proficiency (50 percent, 8-of-16) trumped Liberty's three-point effort (16.7 percent, 1-of-6) and put Fresno State in front at the half.
Sadalia Ellis paced the Lady Flames with eight points and three assists in the first half. Katelyn Adams and Simone Brown pulled down four boards apiece.
Thompson, Bree Farley, Moriah Faulk and Alex Sheedy scored seven points each for Fresno State in the opening 20 minutes, while Thompson added five rebounds and five assists.
Liberty got to within one (36-35) on layups by Frazier and Rininger during the opening minute of the second half.
The Bulldogs then outscored the Lady Flames by an 18-5 count over the next five and a half minutes, aided by three more triples. Thompson's shot clock buzzer-beating trifecta swished through the net with 13:36 remaining, bolstering Fresno State's lead to 54-40.
Liberty held Fresno State without a made field goal for the next 8:55, enabling the Lady Flames to get back into that game. Part of that span saw the Lady Flames reel off a 16-4 surge. Miller capped off the burst with a driving right-handed layup at 8:06, pulling her team to within 58-56.
The Bulldogs' lead got back to seven (65-58) on Farley's hoop with 4:44 left. Guards Ellis, Frazier and Miller combined to tally Liberty's final eight points of the game from the foul line, including Ellis' pair of connections at 1:31 which made it a one-possession game at 69-66.
But Liberty was unable to score the rest of the way, missing three shot attempts and committing a turnover during the final 35 seconds. Meanwhile, Jacinta Vandenberg essentially sealed Fresno State's 70-66 win by splitting a pair of free throws with 16.9 seconds to play.
Liberty shot 40.4 percent (21-of-52) from the field, as compared with Fresno State's 38.5 percent (20-of-52) clip. The Lady Flames were also more effective at the charity stripe, hitting 77.8 percent (21-of-27) to the Bulldogs' 57.6 percent (19-of-33).
Fresno State made the difference outside the arc, though, equaling a season high with 11 made triples.
Liberty doubled up the Bulldogs on the glass after halftime, 26-13, finishing with a 45-32 rebounding edge. The Lady Flames also scored a season-high 28 bench points. However, Fresno State was able to convert 24 Liberty turnovers into 27 points.
Rininger's streak of four straight double-doubles came to an end for the Lady Flames. The redshirt sophomore did lead the team with 14 points and shared the team lead with seven rebounds, though.
Miller's 12-point second-half scoring outburst matched the junior's scoring output during the season's first five games combined. She also came up with a team-high three steals.
Ellis finished with 10 points, making all six of her free throw tries. Adams and Brown tied Rininger for team-high rebounding honors with seven caroms each.
Thompson was one of four Bulldogs to score in double digits. She was joined by Sheedy (14 points), Farley (13 points) and Faulk (12 points).