RENO -- Ada Gee's worst fears were realized in the opener of the John Asquaga's Nugget Classic.
Call it a letdown, wake-up call or lesson. Call it whatever you will, but Nevada, which convincingly beat Big 10 power Indiana 68-56 for the Great Alaska Shootout title, will not be playing for the crown in its own tournament.
The Wolf Pack lost to Eastern Washington 54-51 on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center, blowing a 19-point lead in the process. Nevada will play at 1 p.m. today in the consolation game against Eastern Michigan, which lost to Dayton 73-68. Dayton will play Eastern Washington for the title at 3 p.m.
"The greatest fear after a big win was that we would have somewhat of a letdown," Gee said.
Nevada's Jamela Magee didn't want to call it a letdown. "I couldn't say it was a letdown, I would just say it was more of a lesson," she said. "They wanted it more than we did."
The Wolf Pack beat Indiana on Wednesday and then made the long flight back from Alaska.
"That could play a role in it, but that's really no excuse," said Kate Smith about the long trip. "Obviously this wasn't our best game of the season. "I just think that the intensity wasn't there."
"I think it's still early. I think this game showed what we need to work on. I think it kind of brought us down to earth."
Nevada switched from man to matchup zone defenses throughout the first half to shut down the Eagles. Eastern Washington shot 17.8 percent and had 16 turnovers in the first half as the Wolf Pack built a 26-12 halftime lead. Ashley Bastian's two free throws early in the second half gave Nevada a 32-13 lead.
But then Eastern Washington adjusted to Nevada's matchup zone, hitting 5-of-6 three-pointers in the second half. After forcing 16 turnovers in the first half, Nevada (2-2) actually finished with more turnovers than the Eagles (24-22). Normally reliable point guard Laura Ingham had eight turnovers.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said Gee about her team's effort. "I felt that they wanted it more.
"Turnovers were costly. I think those things come from a lack of focus."
The Eagles closed all the way back to 39-38, helped by a controversial sequence that arguably had a significant impact on the game. Stephanie Ulmer hit a fadeaway jumper to apparently bring Eastern Washington to within 39-36.
But Nevada was called for its seventh foul and Eastern Washington should have received a one-and-one before Ulmer's shot. The officials discovered the error on the next dead ball.
But instead of taking away the basket and giving the Eagles the one-and-one, the officials decided to give Ulmer the shot and the one-and-one. Gee said she believed the Eagles should have only received one or the other, but not both.
"I can't comment on officiating," Gee said. "I think that was a key situation.
"That did not cost us the game. Our poor play and lack of execution cost us the game. The officiating didn't cost us the game."
Smith scored on a pass inside from Amber Young and was fouled. She converted the three-point play to give Nevada a 42-38 lead and temporarily stop the bleeding. But the game stayed close throughout and was tied 49-49 when Raelynn Chaffee hit a baseline jumper to give the Eagles a 51-49 lead.
Jacqueline Rigtrup hit one-of-two free throws to give Eastern Washington a 52-49 lead. Nevada's three-point shot attempt to tie the game was blocked, but April Bankston grabbed the rebound and scored to cut the deficit to 52-51. Michelle Demetruck, though, hit two free throws for the final margin.
Gee admitted that the long trip did have an impact on her team's style of play. Nevada's press also caused the Eagles problems in the first half, but without fresh legs and having to stay with her starting lineup, Gee couldn't use the press as much in the second half.
"I hadn't planned on utilizing our starters as much in the second half," Gee said.