Freshman helps Nevada women win down stretch in exhibition
RENO — It won’t be surprising if the opening exhibition game for the University of Nevada women’s basketball team serves as a microcosm for the season.
It figures that seniors Kate Smith and Laura Ingham will have to carry the Wolf Pack while the rest of Nevada’s young team comes along. In an ironic twist on Sunday, Smith and Ingham carried Nevada for most of the way until they both missed most of the action down the stretch.
That’s when freshman Brooke Johnson scored six points late in the game to propel Nevada to a 72-68 win over the University of Mathiass Bell Banska Bystrica of Slovakia on Sunday at Lawlor Events Center.
Senior Ashley Bastian — another senior who figures to play a significant role this season — also hit two key three-pointers late in the second half. But until Johnson and Bastian rose up, it was Smith’s and Ingham’s show.
Smith scored 27 points, hitting 12-of-13 free throws. The difference of the game came from the foul line as Nevada was 24-of-32 while Slovakia went 11-of-19.
The 6-2 Smith held her own against a front line of 6-5 Livia Libicova, 6-5 Denisa Svarova and 6-6 Lenka Zimova, who were all also able to play on the perimeter in the European style.
“I think it’s a really good test,” said Smith about facing bigger players. “There are players in the WAC that are as big if not bigger. They were not the conventional low-post players.”
Ingham scored 14 points to support Smith. “We might have to do that at first,” said Ingham about her and Smith scoring more. “I’m obviously still going to try to get my assists.”
“We’re asking Laura to score more,” Nevada coach Ada Gee said. “We’d like to see her average double digits in scoring.”
Gee also said the plan is to take advantage of Ingham’s quickness and have her penetrate more. Ingham was able to do that effectively against Slovakia. “She can break defenses down,” Gee said.
Nevada trailed 55-51 in the second half when Bastian nailed a three that began a five-point play. Slovakia’s defender was called for a foul trying to break through Smith’s screen on the play. Smith made both ends of the one-and-one to give the Wolf Pack a 56-55 lead.
Johnson later scored to give Nevada a 62-57 lead, but Slovakia fought back to take a 64-63 lead. Nevada responded with a 7-0 run on Johnson’s baseline jumper and Bastian’s three. Ingham then found April Bankston for a basket to make it 70-64.
After Slovakia closed to within 70-68, Johnson hit an off-balance leaner in the lane with the shot clock winding down in the final seconds to seal the win.
“I just saw the shot clock winding down,” Johnson said. “I just tried to put it in.”
Much of what happened down the stretch came with Ingham and Smith on the bench in the last six minutes. Ingham was in foul trouble and fouled out with 43.9 seconds left.
Smith sat out for several minutes before coming in with two minutes left. “I think Kate had gone a long stretch and looked a little tired,” Gee said.
Bastian scored nine points all on three pointers and showed a glimpse of the outside shooting that Nevada hopes to receive from her, Amber Young and Katie Saltmarsh.
“We’ve got players that can stroke the ball,” Gee said. “We should have good balance.”