RENO -- It could be a lack of a killer instinct. A loss of intensity. Or simply fatigue.
While the University of Nevada women's basketball is struggling to explain why, the how and the what keeps happening. Nevada lost another close game on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center when it faltered in the second half, this time in a 77-72 defeat to SMU.
Throwing out its loss to No. 11 Louisiana Tech, five of Nevada's six Western Athletic Conference losses have come in the same fashion. In all five losses, Nevada (7-9, 0-6) was in position to win after the first half. But in every loss, the Wolf Pack have been outscored in the second half.
Saturday's loss against SMU (9-6, 3-2) was similar to WAC losses to Tulsa and Rice. Nevada was able to build a big lead in the first half, leading by as many as 13 points against the Mustangs.
But Nevada coach Ada Gee said her team faltered in the last eight minutes against SMU in the same way it did against Tulsa and Rice. Since Nevada has been relying on a seven-to-eight player rotation in the WAC, using eight players against the Mustangs, fatigue may be a factor.
Gee said she didn't think so. "A lot of people can question that," she said.
"We do not have the killer instinct," Gee said. "I was pleased with the effort in the first half."
Gee also said that her team needs to have "40 minutes of focus and intensity."
Laura Ingham had a monster game for Nevada, with 27 points and 14 assists. But although Ingham had a spectacular game, she also played 37 minutes and had six turnovers. She admitted fatigue may have been a factor.
"I must be hiding it reall well," said Ingham about how tired she was after playing 37 minutes. "I'm really tired. By the last buzzer, I'm really worn out."
But Ingham did attribute the second half letdown to less intensity.
"It kind of felt like we didn't have the same fire," she said. "I think that was the difference."
Nevada had 13 of its 19 turnovers in the second half, many of them unforced, Gee said. That could be attributed to lack of focus or fatigue -- or both.
SMU also made 14-of-18 foul shots while Nevada was just 2-of-5 from the line.
"The turnovers were the difference and the free throws," Gee said.
Ashley Bastian, who scored 14 points, said she didn't believe Nevada lost its focus.
"I don't really think it was our intensity," Bastian said. "They were just getting open shots."
Bastian also said the Wolf Pack's troubles are "as frustrating as it could get," Bastian said. "It's the same thing over and over. It just keeps happening. I don't know what to say any more.
"Something has to change. Basically this sucks. It it continues, basically the whole season is down the drain."
Nevada built a 32-19 lead in the first half, scoring many of its baskets in transition. But the Wolf Pack couldn't keep up their frenetic pace in the second half.
"I think we're best in transition," Bastian said. "You can't expect Laura to be up tempo 40 minutes, pushing things all the time."
After SMU came back to take a 48-46 lead in the second half, Nevada responded with a 7-0 run to take a 53-48 lead. Bastian began the run by nailing a three-pointer.
But the Mustangs took control down the stretch, building a 73-64 lead late in the game. Nevada's cause wasn't helped when April Bankston picked up two quick fouls in a matter of seconds, fouling out with five minutes, 12 seconds left in the game.
Bankston fouled out on questionable call when it appeared she made a clean block of a shot by Davis. Adding insult to injury, Davis made both foul shots to give SMU a 67-60 lead.
Bastian made a three to cut the deficit to 73-67 and Ingham's three cut the deficit to 75-72 with four seconds left, but Nevada ran out of time.
The Wolf Pack were able to shut down SMU's leading scorer, Andrea Cossey, who came in averaging 14.7 points a game. Thanks in great part to the efforts of Bastian, who was shadowing Cossey when Nevada was in a man defense, Cossey was held to eight points. "I thought we did an excellent job on Cossey," Gee said.
But Sarah Davis picked up the slack for SMU, scoring 24 points. Kate Smith added 12 points for Nevada.