Fresno State looking to play spoiler

LOS ANGELES -- Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins wanted to make sure the trip was worthwhile.

Before boarding a bus for Los Angeles to play in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Wiggins forced his team to watch parts of the first half of last year's early exit.

"I wanted Hayley (Munro) to see that we never blocked out," Wiggins said. "I wanted Jaleesa (Ross) to see how many times we bobbled the ball, how we looked nervous and not like ourselves."

The 13th-seeded Bulldogs (24-8) don't want a repeat against fourth-seeded California on Saturday in a first-round game of the Trenton Regional at the Galen Center.

Fifth-seeded Virginia will play 12th-seeded Marist in the second game.

"In watching the film, I could really see that everyone was nervous, including myself," Ross said. "We couldn't hit a 3 and that's a big part of our game. We couldn't rebound, big part of our game. We really need to relax this year. We have more confidence."

In only their second trip to the tourney, the WAC champions have a daunting task in against the Bears and their two big post players: Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker.

The Bears (25-6) are motivated to get back on track after losing three of their last five and slipping to 13th in the national rankings. One of those losses was a 69-67 defeat to an unranked USC team in the Pac-10 semifinals in the same gym they are playing in this weekend.

"We still have that burning feeling in our eyes," Hampton said. "This week in practice, everybody was just amped up and ready to play."

Walker is 21st in the nation in scoring with 19.3 per game. Hampton, who is averaging 9.1 points, had double-doubles in two of her last three games.

The Bulldogs are banking on making 3s and outrebounding the Bears. Fresno State leads the nation in 3-pointers made (305) and is averaging 9.5.

Ross has 93 of those and Bailey Amundsen has 72.

"We just are fortunate enough that we shoot it OK," Wiggins said. "Not only do we shoot a lot, but we make a lot. We have a lot of confidence with it, but it's not all we are. We do play defense and we do try and cover and rebound, and that helps us when we miss."

Pulling down rebounds against Cal could be difficult. The Bears are edging opponents by a margin of plus-7 in that area and score plenty on putbacks.

Cal coach Joanne Boyle knows the Bears will have to defend the perimeter.

"Playing in the Pac-10, we have a lot of great 3-point shooting teams and playing USC kind of presented that problem," Boyle said. "I think you have to play the chess match a little bit, be able to get out there and defend the 3."

The Bears are also looking for Alexis Gray-Lawson to hit from outside. Gray-Lawson, a 39 percent 3-point shooter, had 10 within a four-game period, but is 1-for-11 from long range in her last four.

"Just technique," Gray-Lawson said. "When you get in a situation where you're not hitting the shots that you're used to hitting, it's just basically about repetition."

Marist (29-3) is an underdog against Virginia, but the Red Foxes have played spoilers in the tournament before. In 2007, Marist upset Ohio State and Middle Tennessee before losing to Tennessee 65-46.

"We hope we can have the same type of ending a couple of years ago," Marist coach Brian Giorgis said. "We know we have our work cut out for us. But we've had some players who have experienced success playing against teams that are very talented and very skilled and well coached."

Two of those players are Julianne Viani and Rachele Fitz, both leftovers from that 2007 team. Fitz leads the team in scoring (20.6) and rebounding (9.3). Viani is second on the team with 15.2 points.

Marist, 13-1 on the road, could face its toughest task of the season against the Cavaliers. Virginia (23-9) has a dominant post presence in Aisha Mohammed and Lyndra Littles and a legitimate shooting guard in Monica Wright.

Wright, a national player of the year candidate, is ninth in the nation in scoring (20.5). Littles, who missed the first nine games of the season for being academically ineligible, is also averaging 20.5.

The Cavaliers have had some surprising losses this season. They were beaten by North Carolina State and Georgia Tech, both unranked teams, but upset No. 13 Florida State on Feb. 24.

"I think the key for us to get a win is definitely not going to depend on me and Lyndra," Wright said. "It's going to be the players, our young players, Kelly Hartig, Britnee Millner, Ariana Moorer. Those players are going to have to step up big time and contribute."

Mohammed's 6-foot-3 frame and 13 points, 10.1 rebounds a game could present problems for Marist, the MAAC champion.

"Myself and the other post players think we're preparing for a battle. We know that they're talented, they're strong," Fitz said. "They have some height on us so we're looking for another physical game.