Nevada women advance to finals | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada women advance to finals

BY THOMAS RANSON

Appeal News Service

RENO – That tenacious, in-your-face defense helped the Nevada women’s basketball team cruise into the championship game of the 11th annual John Ascuaga’s Nugget Classic.

Nevada converted 39 points off 29 steals to beat Southern University, 77-52, Saturday night in front of 389 fans at Lawlor Events Center. The Wolf Pack (4-2) will play Idaho State for the tournament title today at 4 p.m., while Southern and UCLA square off at 2 p.m. in the consolation game.

“We really put good pressure on their guards and got a lot of hustle plays with the steals,” Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni said. “It’s important to keep people fresh. We want to play pressure defense, extended defense with fresh people.”

Dellena Criner led a balanced scoring attack with 13 points, and Mikail Price added 12, including two 3-pointers. Brandi Fitzgerald nailed two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

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“It was a whole team effort,” said Criner, who had a game-high eight steals. “I believe my six steals in the first half is definitely a team effort.”

Lacking in size, Nevada’s biggest obstacle was overcoming 6-foot-4 center Fredrieka Lewis, who scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

“She’s a nice, physical player,” Gervasoni said of Lewis. “She is tough. We tried to use our athleticism to get in front of her. She did a nice job finding a target and converting. She worked for her points.”

Courtney Scott and Indi Johnson scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Jaguars, who have lost three in a row to open the season.

Next up for the Pack is Idaho State.

“Idaho State and UCLA are quality teams,” said Gervasoni about the possible matchup.

Nevada’s defense set the tone early in the game when it held Southern scoreless for the first 3:26 as it accounted for 15 steals, six from Criner, and held Southern to 37.5 percent shooting. Nevada led 12-0 on Cherlanda Franklin’s basket before Johnson scored Southern’s first points.

The Jaguars, though, managed to cut the double-digit deficit just once, 20-12, after Lewis sunk in a jumper with 7:36 in the half.

“We’ve been working on offense a lot in practice,” said Price, who hit both 3-pointers in the 12-0 run. “I was moving and being more active. I felt like I was in a rhythm.”

The Wolf Pack immediately regained its double-digit lead and even led by as many as 20 points, 39-19, when Criner converted a layup plus a free throw with 1:17 to go.