RENO - It's funny how easy the game of basketball is when you play some defense and take care of the ball.
Nevada held Sacramento State to 32 percent from the floor, and cut its turnovers in half during the final 20 minutes of the game en route to a 63-52 nonconference women's basketball victory over Sacramento State Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 2-7 and Sacramento State dropped to 3-4. The win snapped a two-game Nevada losing streak.
"The catalyst was getting stops when we needed to get stops," Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni said. "I'm proud of our defense; proud how we played as a team. We came over and took charges and we came over and blocked shots. If we play like that, we can be a strong team. They shot 23 percent in the second half, and we contested every shot. In the half court, nothing came easy."
That's because Dellena Criner and Traci Graham, with help from their teammates put the clamps on Sacramento State point guard Stephanie Cherry, who came into the game averaging 9.2.
"I give them credit for keeping the ball out of her hands," Gervasoni said. "We were double-teaming Cherry and not letting her run the offense. We put that (defense) in yesterday. We wanted them to do something different."
Cherry did score seven points, but she turned the ball over four times and wasn't a factor.
"To their credit that (containing Cherry) had an effect," Sacramento State coach Dan Muscatell said. "They made the game the way they wanted to play it. The team that averaged 24 turnovers had 23, and the team that averaged under 20, had 28. You have to give them some credit, but we were pathetic offensively."
It was just a different team that stepped onto the floor on Saturday. The Wolf Pack had some bounce in their step, and they played like they wanted to win instead of playing not to lose.
"We had a great week of practice," said Meghan McGuire, who dropped in 11 points. "We've had good weeks of practice before and come out flat. It feels good to win."
It was a different week of practice, according to Gervasoni.
"I kicked our scout team out," the Nevada coach said, referring to a group of practice players who work out everyday with the Pack. "We went against each other the whole week. We made the drills competitive where there was a winner and a loser. They were chomping at the bit to play somebody different."
It showed in the second half. Nevada showed a lot of patience and the defense held Sacramento State without a point for 8 minutes 46 seconds.
Sacramento State had just regained the lead, 44-43, with 14:20 left thanks to a 7-2 run. Ashley Cadotte scored twice on layups thanks to defensive lapses by Nevada, and Cindy Alldrin knocked in a 3-pointer.
That's when the game changed dramatically in Nevada's favor. The defensive intensity picked up, and Sacramento State went through its drought, turning the ball over six times in that stretch.
Nevada took advantage of three of the miscues to go on a 12-0 run and take a 55-44 lead with 5:57 remaining. Brandi Fitzgerald, Kate Saltmarsh, Graham, McGuire and Bre'Anna Henry all scored a basket apiece.
"The first five or six minutes of the game we were taking quick shots, and we talked about that midway through the first half," Gervasoni said. "We did a better job of not forcing shots and understanding what shots we wanted to get."
"There were three times we didn't get a shot off," Muscatell. "We had two offensive fouls in that (12-0) sequence. We were not good all night offensively."
Sacramento State did chop the lead to nine twice inside the final minute, but a layup and jump shot by Fitzgerald and a jump shot by Graham kept the Hornets from coming back.
The second-half performance was a far cry from the first 20 minutes. It was the same old Wolf Pack in the first half, however. The Pack turned the ball over 15 times. The only saving grace is that the Hornets turned it over 14 times.
There were four ties in the opening half, and the biggest lead was four points, 13-9 for Sacramento State.
Trailing 25-22, the Pack outscored the Hornets 12-6 in the final 2 minutes 40 seconds to take a 34-32 halftime lead, and it was McGuire, Jessica Preslar (10 points) and Fitzgerald (13 points) supplying the offensive firepower.
Preslar started the surge with a free throw with 2:40 remaining, and 23 seconds later, converted a three-point play to make it 26-25.
Scoring from the inside is something that Gervasoni has stressed to Preslar since she took over the program. And last week, Gervasoni put in a new rule - if the ball is in the paint, a shot better go up.
Fitzgerald's putback and 3-pointer gave Nevada a 31-29 lead. Kim Sheehy regained the lead for the Hornets with a trey, but McGuire drained a 3-pointer to make it 34-32.
Notes: Nevada's comeback was helped by the fact it shot 50 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, finishing at a respectable 45.8 for the game... Nevada is off until the 28th when it plays at Northern Arizona before returning home to play USF on New Year's Eve at 2 p.m. ... Gervasoni played 13 players, eight of whom played 10 minutes or more ... Nevada was outrebounded 41-36. Lindsey Heard led the Hornets with eight and Fitzgerald topped the Pack with six ... Several members of the men's team watched the contest, including David Ellis, Mo Charlo, Nick Fazekas and Kyle Shiloh.