Ciner lights up Idaho State | NevadaAppeal.com

Ciner lights up Idaho State

Criner lights up Idaho State

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Whenever the Nevada women’s basketball team needed a boost, junior guard Dellena Criner was there to deliver.

The first helpful hand came in the middle of the second half when Criner’s seven points sparked a 9-0 run and gave the Wolf Pack a 55-52 lead with 10 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.

Idaho State cut the lead to 67-66 with 1:49 left, only to see Criner score the game’s final eight points to lift Nevada to a 74-66 win in the championship game of the Nugget Classic Sunday at Lawlor Events Center.

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It was the second title in the last three years for Nevada, which improved to 5-2 overall. In 2005, Nevada knocked off Colorado for the title.

Criner finished the game with a career-high 32 points, easily eclipsing her previous best of 25. She knocked down 13-of-22 from the floor, including four 3-point field goals, and was an easy choice for the MVP award.

“This was a great team win,” Criner said. “Everybody stepped up and built from the game before (a first-round win over Southern).”

Criner said that the Pack is unselfish and tries to get the ball into the hands of whoever is hot at the time. In this case, that was her. She was more than equal to the task, and she did it in many different ways. Criner did a great job of getting to the rim, hit a few pull-up jump shots and knocked down four long-range shots. Simply put, she was a handful.

Andrea Lightfoot nailed three free throws after being fouled by Mikail Price on a 3-point attempt to make it 67-66.

“I was anxious to see how we would respond,” Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni. “In the past, we would have hung our heads.”

The past is the past as Criner showed. She started the surge with a 3-pointer , and after Natalie Doma (27 points, 13 rebounds) had the ball stripped, Criner drove the lane and scored. Idaho State turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and Criner completed the barrage with two free throws.

“That (Doma’s turnover) was key,” ISU coach Jon Newlee said. “I felt like she was going to score. They collapsed all over Doma.”

Gervasoni, playing with a smaller lineup much of the game, tried to front Doma most of the time with a variety of players. Doma’s last basket came with 10:03 left in the contest.

“I am proud of this team. We’ve played a challenging schedule so far and we need quality wins like this,” Gervasoni said. “This win should give the team the confidence we need to keep working and improving. We took advantage of our opportunities and we did well on both ends of the floor.”

Criner wasn’t the only Nevada player to enjoy a career night. Ex-Spring Creek star Johnna Ward scored a career-high 19, connecting on 5-of -8 3-point attempts.

She sparked an 8-4 second-half surge that chopped Idaho State’s lead to 46-44 with 13:38 left in the game. Ward hit two 3-pointers and then added a layup in a span of 1 minute, 50 seconds.

“Coach tells me to keep shooting,” Ward said. “Tonight they started to fall in.”

Ward, on the advice of assistant coach Darryl Smith, has changed her technique. Instead of jumping into the shot, she is hopping into the shot which has helped her rhythm, according to Gervasoni.

Bre’Anna Henry also came up big in the second half. Despite not playing the first half, Henry led Nevada rebounders with six. She got a key putback with 3:59 left to snap a 60-all tied which gave Nevada the lead for good. Henry finished with four points.

Jenna Brown’s free throw made it 62-61 and then Nevada guard Brandi Fitzgerald drilled a 3-pointer for a 65-61 advantage. Brown hit two more free throws, but Price countered with a basket at the 2:02 mark for a 67-63 lead.

That set the stage for Criner’s magical finish.

UCLA 79, SOUTHERN 52

The Bruins 4-3, outscored Southern 26-18 in the last 10 minutes of the first half en route to an easy win in the third-place game.

UCLA led 18-11 with 10:36 remaining, and then went on a 13-0 run en route to a 44-19 halftime lead.

Lindsey Pluimer led the Bruins with 19 points and Nina Earl added 11. Doreena Campbell followed with nine, while Tierra Henderson and Regina Rogers contributed eight apiece.

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