RENO - The Wolf Pack women's basketball team found a way to win its season opener Friday night, and coach Kim Gervasoni didn' care how her team did it - ugly or pretty.
"We found a way to get a win," said Gervasoni of Nevada's 62-51 victory against Santa Clara at Lawlor Events Center. "These kids believe in each other and themselves. They believe we are going to win."
Nevada has a day to review its game against Santa Clara and prepare for a Sunday home game against San Diego State. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
After taking a 2-point lead in the first half against Santa Clara, the Wolf Pack had to withstand the hard-charging Broncos when the visitors cut the Pack's lead to six points with less than four minutes left in regulation play.
From the final three minutes of the first half to the first seven minutes of the second half, the Broncos outscored the Pack, 17-7. Nevada pulled away to lead by as many as 15 points after Bre'Anna Henry swished a short jumper and then sunk two free throws. The Broncos chipped away at the lead and narrowed the gap to 57-51 when Chandice Cronk worked the baseline for a layup at 3:38.
"We fight even harder with our backs against the wall," said Broncos coach Michelle Bento-Jackson.
The sixth-year coach said her players lost their composure at times in the first half but played better in the second half.
Gervasoni said her team's defense shut down the Broncos during the final five minutes to give the Pack its third season-opening win in five years.
"In the first 15 minutes (of the second half), we didn't adjust," Gervasoni said, explaining how the Broncos went to a spread offense. "During the last five minutes, we played great defense and didn't give them any open looks."
Dellena Criner echoed her coach's assessment.
"The opposition did a good job of adjusting," she said. "We had to adjust quickly."
Criner said Gervasoni called a few timeouts during the final five minutes, so the players could get their composure and talk.
Mikail Price, who shot 5 of 16 from the floor, led the Pack with 22 points. Her aggressive play sparked the Pack in both halves when Nevada needed to stop Santa Clara's momentum.
"In the first half, our goal was to get the deflections and create shots," the senior guard said.
Both teams began the game by missing numerous shots and committing excessive turnovers. Santa Clara's only lead came on the game's first basket when Elizabeth Doran drained a 3-pointer. Brandi Fitzgerald responded on the Pack's next possession when she sunk a trey. Neither team could hold on to the ball for the next three minutes as the two opponents combined for 11 turnovers and five missed shots.
Gervasoni, however, said she felt both teams were playing stingy defense during the first five minutes.
The Broncos committed 22 turnovers in the first half and finished the game with 38. Nevada turned the ball over 27 times, 16 coming in the first half.
With 7:54 remaining before halftime, Nevada surged ahead with a 14-0 run that was ignited by Shavon Moore's layup. Price followed with a jump shot and then a high, arcing 3-pointer from 10 feet behind the top of the key. The Broncos committed six turnovers before Cronk hit a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Nevada's biggest lead was 32-10 with less than three minutes remaining before intermission.
Bento-Jackson said she didn't mind opening the season at Nevada.
"I like opening on the road. It builds character," she said. "I tell the team to be fearless on the road."