RENO - Johnna Ward's first-ever college basketball game was a smashing success.
Ward, the freshman from Spring Creek High, scored 10 points, dished out three assists and had four steals in Nevada's 68-40 exhibition win over the Division II Sonoma State women Saturday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.
"It was a little nerve-racking, but fun," Ward said after playing 19 minutes off the bench. "I didn't have any expectations. I was just playing my hardest when I was out there."
Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni certainly liked the effort that her team played with. It was typical Nevada defense. The Pack forced 19 turnovers and held Sonoma State to a 21.6 effort from the floor. Nevada shot a respectable 40 percent from the field.
"We have a lot to work on," Gervasoni said. "The kids played hard. It's a good starting point for me to work on a rotation. Even though we held them to 40, we had some breakdowns.
"We did better the second half. We were moving our feet, blocking out and we ran the floor."
Nevada got off to a sluggish start, and had just a 9-8 lead after the first 8 1/2 minutes.
That's when Ward and Dellena Criner started to heat up. Ward knocked down both of her 3-pointers while Criner also contributed six points to spark a 14-1 surge and give Nevada a 23-9 lead with 7:43 remaining.
Ward was a good complement to Criner, who scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the first 20 minutes. Criner and Ward scored 19 points, just two short of the entire Sonoma State production in the first half.
Sonoma State opened the second half with a 7-0 run to slice the deficit to 36-28, as Chelsey Anderson scored on a drive and a pull-up jump shot and Heidi Mertle converted a three-point play.
The Wolf Pack went on a surge of their own, outscoring SSU 14-4 to open up a 53-34 lead with 9:31 left in the game.
Freshman Jennifer Gross scored from the paint and Criner followed with a free throw for a 42-30 lead. Mertle scored on a layup to make it 42-32 with 14:10 left.
Sonoma State went scoreless for the next three-plus minutes. A Criner 3-pointer and a putback by freshman Shavon Moore made it 47-32. After a layup by Genny Anderson, the Pack scored six straight, four by Moore, to get the lead to 19, which was way too much for SSU to overcome.
Moore finished with nine points and six rebounds in 12 minutes.
"Shavon is a nice player," Gervasoni said. "She got the jitters out of the way in the first half. She's a great rebounder and has great hands. Our freshmen (Gross, Ward, Nicole Williams and Moore) did a good job."
The game marked the return of Cherlanda Franklin, who redshirted last year after suffering a knee injury. She scored one point and grabbed four rebounds, and played solid defensively.
"It felt great to get out there in a game," Franklin said. "That (my shot) has been the one thing I've been working on (even last year). I love playing defense and playing aggressively."
Notes: Gervasoni played 16 players, 10 of whom scored ... Bre'Anna Henry contributed seven points and Brandi Fitzgerald six to supplement the offense of Criner, Ward and Moore ... Nevada had a 47-35 edge on the boards. Moore and Marianne Lombardi led the way with six each ... SSU's Denae Wellander was the only player in double figures. She finished with 10 points.
•Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281