Big West Tournament tips off Wednesday | NevadaAppeal.com

Big West Tournament tips off Wednesday

Dave Price

Nevada needed to win this past Saturday to secure a No. 1 seed for the Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament. Cal Poly needed to win simply to get into the tournament.

The Wolf Pack and Mustangs find themselves in must-win situations once again as they prepare to meet Wednesday night in a 6 p.m. opening round contest in the Big Tournament at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.

Wednesday’s winner advances into the tournament semifinals against the Long Beach State-Boise State survivor Friday night at Lawlor. The championship game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.

The men’s tournament tips off Thursday with four games starting at noon, when Long Beach State faces Idaho. Nevada plays U.C. Santa Barbara in the final game of the night.

Nevada’s women (8-6, 18-9) rallied to a 76-57 victory against North Texas on Saturday at Lawlor to secure the East Division’s No. 1 seed. Angie Heer and Jessica Larsen ignited a 22-4 run midway through the second half brought the Wolf Pack back from a 43-37 deficit with 14:00 remaining.

Larsen banked a shot off the glass to tie the score 44-44, then Heer buried back-to-back 3-pointers off assists from Larsen to make it 50-44.

Heer scored eight points to go with two rebounds, one steal and one assist during a four-minute stretch in which the Wolf Pack stretched its lead to 59-47. Larsen scored five points during the same span.

Cal Poly qualified for the tournament by ending its regular season with back-to-back wins over U.C. Irvine (77-67) on Thursday and then Fullerton (88-65) on Saturday. Kristi Baker scored 15 points against Fullerton and she had a 13-point, eight-assist performance against Irvine.

No. 9 U.C. Santa Barbara (15-0, 27-3) is riding a 23-game win streak coming into its tournament opener Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. against Idaho.

Nevada’s men (6-10, 8-19) also had to come from behind to earn a tournament invitation. The Wolf Pack has won three of its last four games, including victories against Boise State (62-59) on Thursday and Idaho (73-67) on Saturday, to pick up the East Division’s No. 3 seed.

U.C. Santa Barbara (10-6, 14-13) finished second in the West despite starting its conference season with three straight losses. The Gauchos rallied from eight points down to defeat Pacific on Saturday night, 58-53.

Defense and 3-point shooting have been strengths for Santa Barbara this season. The Gauchos rank among the top 15 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.388) and they set a school single-season record for most 3-pointers as a team with 165.