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Top-ranked Rams pull away early

It's not often a team shoots almost 50 percent from the field and loses by 15 points.

But it was that kind of night for the Merced College women's basketball team.

A 10-minute lull by the Lady Devils to close the first half was all Fresno City needed.

The Rams -- ranked No. 1 in Northern California -- quickly turned a two-point game into a 17-point halftime lead and never looked back in a 78-65 victory on Wednesday night.

"I feel like we did a good job to start the game, but we couldn't maintain our focus," MC coach Allen Huddleston said. "They're a good team. There's a reason they've won 26 games.

"You can't have a letdown for that long against a team that good."

The Lady Devils shot 24 of 51 from the field, but just couldn't get enough shots off.

Poor decisions and some spotty ball handling led to 32 turnovers and allowed Fresno City to close the half on a 25-10 run.

"When people put pressure on us, sometimes we start dribbling too much," freshman guard Tanisha Reed said. "If we had just kept running the offense, I think we would have been fine."

Despite the big lead, the state's top-scoring offense struggled against MC's aggressive defense.

Averaging just under 50 percent shooting for the season, the Rams were bullied into a 23-for-77 night from the field

Courtney Crosson was the only member of Fresno's big three to find success -- finishing with 22 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. The Rams' Vanessa House and Lena Gipson were held to just 20 points combined.

"It was crazy down in the post, very aggressive," Crosson said. "But that's kind of how we practice. So it was just like another night of practice.

"Coach is always telling us that we have to take other team's best shots and then play through it.

"I think we did it tonight."

The bulk of Fresno City's damage was done from the free throw line.

The Lady Devils were whistled for 32 fouls, translating into 42 free-throw attempts for the Rams.

Fresno City hit 30 of them.

Led by Jhinnae Clark (14 points) and Tiara Dunson (10), Huddleston got 36 points from his bench.

Kenyatta Harper added 13 points and three steals.

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

Central Valley Conference

FRESNO CITY 78

MERCED COLLEGE 63

at Merced College

FRESNO CITY -- Allison Patterson 9, Kaitlin Kaufman 8, Vanessa House 11, Courtney Crosson 22, Sonya Eggelston 2, Lena Gipson 9, Tessa Wood 2, Natasha Brown 8, Emily Riche 4, Tynisha Johnson 3. Totals 23 30-43 78.

MERCED COLLEGE -- Jhinnae Clark 14, Tiara Dunson 10, Kenyatta Harper 13, Raquel Martinez 3, Fantasia Newsome 4, Patricia O'Neill 2, Amanda Pacheco 4, Tanisha Reed 6, Lakeya Sears 5, Tineka Spencer 2. Totals 24 10-16 63.

3- pointers: Fresno City 2 (Brown, Patterson), Merced 5 (Martinez, Harper 2, Sears, Reed); Rebounds: Fresno City 42 (Gipson 10), Merced 29 (Newsome 7); Total Fouls: Fresno City 24, Merced 32; Foul Outs: Patterson (F), Sears (MC), Clark (MC); Technicals: Allen Huddleston (MC).

Halftime Score: Fresno City 43-26.

Records: Fresno City 4-0 CVC, 26-2; Merced 3-1 CVC, 16-11.

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