RENO - Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni knows her team very well.
She said that her team needed to start fast, and that Nevada wasn't capable of digging itself out of a 10-point hole.
Nevada, thanks to a horrendous offensive first half that saw it shoot 15.2 from the floor, trailed by seven points at the half and never could get over the hump en route to a 62-54 Western Athletic Conference loss Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The loss dropped Nevada to 7-20 overall and 3-14 in the WAC going into Saturday's regular-season finale at home against San Jose State.
"We had trouble scoring in the first half, and we didn't play any defense (in the second)," Gervasoni said. "We hung in there, though."
The win was important for Hawai'i (11-13, 7-10).
"We really needed a win," Hawai'i coach Jim Bolla said. "We've been struggling the last four or five games. It was an ugly game. Give Nevada credit, they played hard."
Indeed. Nevada always plays hard, but unfortunately that hasn't translated into victories.
Despite the poor shooting in the first half, Nevada made a nice 13-5 run late in the second half, cutting Hawai'i's lead to 45-41 with 6:27 left thanks to a three-point play by April Bankston (17 points) and threes by Traci Graham (9 points) and Meghan McGuire (11 points).
Nevada had the Rainbow Wahine reeling, but couldn't deliver the knockout blow.
Janevia Taylor and Alofa Toiaivao missed after a Hawai'i timeout, which gave Nevada a chance to cut the lead to two or one. Bankston came down and, without looking to set the ball up or get into a set offense, missed badly from the top of the key.
Toiaivao scored on a lay-up, but then Amber Young tried to force a pass inside. After a Hawai'i foul, McGuire had a chance to cut into the lead, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation. Toiaivao hit two foul shots, extending the lead to 49-41 with 4:17 left.
"Those are two seniors," Gervasoni said. "April rushed the shot and then Amber made a bad pass. You can't have that. They just have to learn what we need to do, and they haven't learned. The two mistakes killed us."
The missed free throw by McGuire was one in a long line of misses by the freshman forward, who went 3 for 19 from the field.
"She was taking good shots," Gervasoni said. "She got a little frustrated. I think she was fouled on five of them. She kept shooting, which I was glad to see. It just wasn't her night."
Baskets by Graham and Bankston made it 49-45 with 2:28 left, but that's as close as the Pack would get. Forced to foul, Hawai'i drained 9 of 10 from the line down the stretch.
The first half saw poor offensive basketball by both teams. The Rainbow Wahine shot 25 percent and turned the ball over nine times. Nevada shot 15.2 and turned it over seven times. Nevada couldn't hit a shot, and looked very timid running its offense.
Hawai'i post players, Alofa Toiaivao and Brittany Grice combined for six first-half blocks, forcing Nevada to score away from the basket.
Nevada went seven-plus minutes without a point in the opening half, enabling Hawai'i to build a 14-8 lead with 7:08 left. The winners stretched it to 19-10 before Bankston scored with 43.2 left to make it 19-12.
"I don't think we were hesitant," Young said, referring to the blocked shots. "At times we got stuck down there."
Bolla said the first half success was part good defense and part poor execution by Nevada. He said the press gave Nevada some problems.
"Their press, they use to disrupt us," Bolla said. "Our press we do it to take time off the clock. They didn't have enough time to run their offense. I think we got two shot-clock violations on them the first half."
n Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281