Otuafi shines in D1 debut with double-double
RENO — The last time she was on the Nevada court, Leta Otuafi was leading her Greenwave teammates to their second-straight state basketball title.
Two years later, the 2019 Fallon grad made her first Division I start in Saturday’s Wolf Pack opener at Lawlor Events Center, recording a double-double. Shut down defense in the final 30 seconds solidified a 66-65 season-opening win by Nevada over William Jessup Saturday afternoon.
“Stepping on this court was a nostalgic feeling. It was just a great feeling,” Otuafi said. “Season openers are your foundation to build off of. We can only get better from here. I’m happy we got the win. I’m proud of our team. “
The Wolf Pack (1-0) got major contributions by a few new faces to the program, led by a double-double from Otuafi in her Division I debut. Otuafi, who transferred to the Pack from junior college Utah State Eastern in the offseason, posted 13 points and 12 rebounds in her first game in Silver and Blue.
Nevada was led in scoring by junior Da’Ja Hamilton who scored 15 points, including two made 3-pointers. Two other returners, Amaya West and LaPraisjah Johnson, each tallied 12 points in the win, which set a career high for Johnson. Johnson also added four steals to her stat line coming off the bench. Freshman Kenna Holt, a Reno native, also posted a solid debut as she led the team with six assists and added three steals.
“Everybody was so excited to play that we did a lot of things by ourselves,” Nevada coach Amanda Levens said.
As for the game itself, a 24-point third quarter by William Jessup got the Warriors back into the game after trailing by seven at halftime. William Jessup outscored the Wolf Pack 24-17 in the third, setting up a fourth quarter with both teams tied at 51. Nevada was able to regain the lead or keep it tied until the 7:07 mark of the period when a 3-pointer by the Warriors gave them their first lead since the midway mark of the first quarter.
William Jessup remained ahead in the game, keeping up the scoring pace for the next few minutes, extending its lead to as many as five with under six minutes to play. Nevada took over from there, going on an 8-0 run, capped off by a driving layup from West with just over two to play that gave the Pack a three-point advantage. Two free throws and a layup by William Jessup on its next two possessions swapped the lead once more in favor of the Warriors.
In the final minute, Otuafi’s layup with 48 seconds on the clock put Nevada ahead by one, but a free throw by WJU’s Bobbie Purify tied things up once again nine seconds later. At the 30 second mark, Hamilton was sent to the free throw line for a pair, making 1-of-2. With a one-point lead, Nevada went back on the defensive for the final 30 seconds. William Jessup let the clock run down on its possession, gunning for the win on one final shot. Stingy defense by the Wolf Pack though and a steal by Hamilton on the final play of the game, sealed the victory for Nevada.
Nevada is set to begin Mountain West action next weekend with a pair of games at Air Force Dec. 4 and 6 from Colorado Springs.