Turnovers cost Pack women's basketball

RENO - Simply put, the Nevada women's basketball team got a dose of its own medicine from San Diego State on Sunday.

The Pack, known for its pressure defense, folded like an accordion when the Aztecs turned up the heat. Nevada turned the ball over a whopping 37 times and didn't score a basket in the final 2 minutes, 39 seconds of a 67-61 loss at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada drops to 1-1 entering a four-game, three-city road trip over the next two weeks. The Pack plays at Eastern Washington on Thursday night.

"San Diego State deserved to win," Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni said. "They were more physical, more aggressive and had more heart. They wanted it more.

"The key was who was going to be able to handle the pressure the best, and we didn't. Our guards did a terrible job. They turned the ball over way too much and they stayed on the side too much, though San Diego State does a good job of channeling you that way."

The Aztecs converted the 37 Nevada turnovers into 30 points, and considering it was a six-point game, that was huge. The usually reliable Dellena Criner turned the ball over 10 times and Mikail Price turned it over seven times.

San Diego State coach Beth Burns, whose team lost last year to the Pack, said she learned a lot from that game.

"I'd never competed against one of Kim's teams," she said. "I taught off that game film for a month. They were tough and relentless."

And, despite playing only nine players, the Aztecs were relentless in their pressure, and it was Nevada that folded late in the game despite its deeper bench.

Jene Morris' free throw gave SDSU a 59-54 lead with 3:25 remaining.

A free throw by Marissa Hammond and a putback by Marianne Lombardi cut the margin to 59-57 with 2:39 left.

Lombardi gave the Pack a bit of spark offensively, scoring eight points and pulling down five rebounds in her 18-minute stint.

"She is a strong, tough girl," Gervasoni said. "She doesn't let a lot rattle her. She plays on an even keel. She does well in a game like that."

Nevada had a chance to tie the game, but SDSU freshman Paris Johnson blocked a shot, and the Pack eventually lost possession when Jen Gross couldn't control a loose ball on the sideline.

It was still a two-point game with 1:22 left when Lombardi was called for an inadvertent elbow while attempting to grab a rebound. SDSU's Allison Duffy (14 points) knocked down both shots for a 63-59 lead.

Nevada's Brandi Fitzgerald made it 63-61 with two free throws.

Quensese Davis increased the lead to 64-61 with a free throw, but the Pack had a chance to tie the game. Johnna Ward missed a 3-pointer, and the Aztecs knocked down three free throws in the final nine seconds for the win.

"I knew it would be this type of game," Burns said.

It was "that" kind of game from the outset, as no more than five points separated either team in the opening 20 minutes, and Gross' buzzer-beater gave Nevada a 36-34 lead.

It's amazing that Nevada was even in the game. The Pack had 21 first-half turnovers times, which led to 15 SDSU points. The Aztecs' pressure, trapping defense made it tough for Nevada to run its offense.

The Aztecs had a 26-21 lead with 7:53 left, but Nevada went on a 13-3 run to grab a 34-29 lead.

Criner led the surge with five points, Lombardi, Shavon Moore and Ward had a bucket apiece.

Nevada bolted to a 43-36 lead to open the second half thanks to two Fitzgerald baskets and a 3-pointer by Franklin, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Then came the dreaded drought that all teams hit at one time or another. Nevada went scoreless for six-plus minutes, falling victim to a 9-0 run which gave the Aztecs a 45-43 lead.

"We needed to come out ready and we didn't," Franklin said. "We need to play harder and everybody has to be on the same page."

Lombardi tied the game at 45, but Duffy led a 7-0 surge with three baskets to give the Aztecs a 52-47 lead.

Duffy and Johnson had good success inside, but Gervasoni pointed out that was the guards' fault, too.

"We overplay underneath," Gervasoni said. "The guards weren't getting enough ball pressure and that enabled them to throw the ball over the top of us."

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281


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