BY THOMAS RANSON
Appeal News Service
RENO - Kim Gervasoni didn't realize her junior forward had it in her to launch the ball down court.
"I joked with her early in the year about who will be the one to throw the ball deep," the fifth-year coach said about Cherlanda Franklin. "I give her props. I didn't see it coming and they did it."
Franklin's Hail Mary pass with 21.7 seconds left in overtime helped the University of Nevada seal a 14-point comeback in an 83-76 victory against New Mexico State Saturday night in front of 1,953 fans at Lawlor Events Center.
"New Mexico State is an amazing team," said Franklin, who finished with a career-high 17 points. "That was a battle right there. We played our butts off. We didn't give up."
Nevada (5-1 Western Athletic Conference, 14-5) moved into sole control of second-place, while New Mexico State (4-2 WAC, 14-5) dropped to third-place. Nevada visits WAC-leader Fresno State on Thursday.
"It feels good," Gervasoni said, "but I want to get in first (place). Obviously, it's a big game next week."
Mikail Price, who hit two free throws to ice the game, led five Nevada players in double figures with 20 points. Dellena Criner scored 14 points after reaching the 1,000 mark on Thursday, and Johnna Ward had 11. Bre'Anna Henry finished with 10 points before fouling out in the second half of Nevada's first overtime game of the season.
Ahead by one after Marianne Lombardi's free throw, Nevada regained possession after Sherell Neal's miss landed out of bounds. Against the Aggies' full court press, Franklin launched a deep pass down the floor to Criner, who was hacked while going for a layup. Irma Kmitaite-Smith's intentional foul allowed Criner to sink two free throws and give Nevada a 79-76 lead with 21.7 seconds left.
"The girls just battled," Gervasoni said. "They played poorly in the first half. But they played well to stay in there. I told them before the game that we just needed to find a way to win. I know New Mexico State just killed us on the boards and I don't want to look at that (The Aggies out-rebounded Nevada by 13)."
The Wolf Pack trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and the Aggies had a 30-13 rebounding advantage. Nevada came back to tie the game at 64 with 4:28 left in the second half.
Neal scored 11 of her game-high 21 points in the first half and helped the Aggies to a 43-36 lead at halftime. Anika Jawara finished with 13 points.
"Our defense was horrible in the first half. We didn't play Pack defense," Franklin said about Nevada giving up 43 first-half points.
"We started to get big stops," Price followed. "The crowd helped us."
After tying the game for the first time, Nevada took a two-point lead on Price's free throw when New Mexico State coach Darin Spence received a technical. Price hit a layup during the process, but it was waved off because Gervasoni called a timeout when Price crossed halfcourt.
Franklin swished a baseline jumper with nine seconds on the shot clock for a one-point lead, 68-67, but Madison Spence sunk a 3-pointer in the corner with 52.8 seconds left. Spence finished the game with nine points.
Price was called for a charge on Nevada's next possession and the Aggies missed a scoring opportunity to give the Wolf Pack the ball with 12.7 seconds left. Ward penetrated through the defense and laced a layup to tie the game with six seconds left. Spence charged into Price to prevent New Mexico State from scoring to end regulation.
"Charges pump people up," Price said. "I thought that they would call nothing or a charge because I flew around."