Nevada women are cooked by Rice

RENO - The Nevada women hung tough for a half, but in the end Rice was too athletic and too strong.

The Owls, behind the outside play of Krystal Frazier and the inside play of Lauren Neaves, eliminated the Wolf Pack 64-54 Wednesday night in the WAC Tournament quarterfinals at Lawlor Events Center.

Frazier scored a career-high 25 points and Neaves added 15 points and 14 rebounds en route to her ninth double-double of the season.

Rice (22-8) advances to a semifinal game Friday at 2:30 p.m. against San Jose State. Nevada ends its second season under Kim Gervasoni with an 8-22 record, an improvement by five wins over last season.

"I'm really proud of this team for the internal fortitude they have," Gervasoni said. "They are tough kids. I'm proud to be their coach.

"Rice is a great team. Their pressure bothered us; took a lot of things away from us. They are so athletic. We can't get by them. We couldn't attack them off the dribble. We had to run box-up plays to get shots off. They got a lot of second-chance points."

Indeed. Rice outrebounded Nevada 46-33, including a 14-10 edge off the offensive glass, which led to 26 points in the paint.

Nevada only trailed 13-8 with 10:37 left in the first half, but the Owls went on a 10-2 run to take a 23-10 lead. Nevada went 4 1/2 minutes without a point. Five different Owls had a hand in the surge, as Neaves, Amber Cunningham, Maudess Fulton, Samantha Stovall and Frazier all scored a basket apiece.

The Pack made a nice little run to cut the deficit to 27-18 thanks to two baskets by Meghan McGuire and a three-pointer by Traci Graham.

The game got out of control at that point, as the Owls ended the half with a 7-2 run, and then went on a 9-0 run to open the second half to take a 43-20 lead with 17:01 left in the half. Neaves had a basket and two free throws, and then Frazier scored 11 of the Owls' next 12 points.

"It was huge," Gervasoni said. "We had cut the lead down, and then we gave up five points."

Rice coach Cristy McKinney said it helped kick-start her team in the second half.

"I think it did," McKinney said. "I think we had a three in there (by Frazier). It carried over into the second half. We played with a lot of focus and intensity."

Frazier went 9 for 11 from the field, including 3 for 3 from beyond the arc.

"This was Krystal Frazier's game tonight," McKinney said. "It was fun to watch."

Frazier shrugged off the accolades, saying "I wanted to go out and play and have fun. I did that."

Nevada cut the deficit to 47-30 thanks to six points by April Bankston (11 points) and two by Cherlandra Franklin, but Rice was able to penetrate, and the Owls hit five of six from the line to get the lead back up to 53-30.

Rice subbed frequently in the second half, and with good reason. The Owls have one and possibly two tough games over the next three days, and need to keep players fresh.

The only drawback to the Owls' offense was that it turned the ball over 26 times. McKinney was asked if her team could win again in the tournament if that happened again.

"We have done that before," McKinney said. "It depends on how well we play defense."

Pretty good. Just ask the Wolf Pack.

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